Refugees flee their homes for many reasons. Some are forced from their homes by violence, others by oppression.
Originally from Burma, Sara arrived to the United States in 2011 at age 17 after a prolonged stay in a Malaysian refugee camp. Sara and her cousins left for Malaysia in search of education and a safe place as the military dictatorship in Burma took over their community.
Unaccompanied Minor Program
Sara was accepted by Catholic Charities unaccompanied minor program (UMP) in 2011. Children in the UMP live with a foster family and attend public school. Many of these children know no English, but Sara spoke some English upon arrival.
“For most newly arrived foreign born children, joining American high school at age 17 presents enormous challenge due to language and other cultural issues. Such a challenge never stopped Sara from becoming an “A” student throughout her stay in high school," said Kassaw Merie, program manager for UMP. “She managed this by establishing effective communication to her school guidance counselor, teachers, and case managers at UMP--all of whom provided assistance to her educational needs.”
While in the foster home, Sara had an excellent relationship with foster parents and she still calls the previous foster mother "mom." “She enjoyed being a part of the extended family and their weekend activities, which helped her acculturation process greatly,” said Merie. As her interest for independent living program grew, Sara headed off to live by herself in apartment arranged by UMP.
Now 20, Sara graduated from high school Cum Laude and was accepted by the Arizona State University School of Engineering. Sara has already won full scholarship from different sources and pursuing her degree in construction engineering as of the 2015 fall semester.
Catholic Charities Role
In addition to providing a foster family, housing, and health services, Catholic Charities supported Sara in her education by providing tutors throughout her school work. She also mastered her independent living skills through the services provided by the program. Independent living skills include managing a bank account, paying bills, and housekeeping duties like cooking and laundry.
“Sara is always content and grounded with a great deal of self-awareness,” said Merie. She is now successfully pursuing the American dream which is usually described as very difficult to be achieved by most refugees. She set herself as an example to her fellow unaccompanied refugee minors in the program through her great accomplishment. With her engineering degree in sight, Sara is destined for a successful life.
Catholic Charities has been helping refugee children for 30 years. You can help refugee children too by joining our community to help refugee children through our Foster Care Fund Team!