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Speaking on behalf of refugees

Farmington Resident Truly Paw will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to talk about the needs of refugees. Photo submitted.

Truly Paw knows what it's like to leave behind everything you know in search of a better life. She's done it twice.

Paw was 15 years old when her family fled persecution in Myanmar and settled in a refugee camp in Thailand. It was an improvement, but it was still a difficult life. Paw got an education, but living conditions were poor and freedom was limited.

"They keep us just like an animal," Paw said. "We can't go out anywhere but the camp.

"We got food. We got a chance to learn from school. We just don't have a chance to go out and enjoy the outside world."

Paw lived in that camp for nine years before she got the chance to come to the United States. With the help of a group called Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service she settled in St. Paul, then got a job in Burnsville and moved to Apple Valley. She currently lives in Farmington.

Life in Minnesota offered much more freedom for Paw, but it still came with challenges. Her English was limited when she arrived, and finding work was hard. She earned a high school degree in the refugee camp, but Paw didn't have much work experience, and she didn't have transportation. She had to find friends who could give her a ride wherever she needed to go. Mostly that just meant getting to work.

"When we came here, the government supported us and gave us what we needed," Paw said. "Just like any other people, you come here, you have to work. You're not supposed to stay on welfare all the time."

Paw has adjusted to life in the United States. She has a car now. She has been promoted at her job from production to quality control. She is finding her way, and now she wants to make sure others can, too.

Paw is in Washington, D.C. this week as part of World Refugee Day, an LIRS-sponsored event to support immigration reform that better protects refugees. She and other refugees met with legislators to talk about the value of protecting people who can no longer live in their home country.

Paw hopes hearing what she has been through will help people understand the need to help others.

"If they ask me, I can share my story with anybody," she said. "I know how hard it is."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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