Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wdek 34: Cards with Karen Refugees

Karenni refugee families fled Karen (near Burma, also called Myanmar) to save their lives and escape the ethnic conflict which has existed there for decades. Over 1,000 Karenni refugees live in the Milwaukee area, most of whom are ethnic minorities in Burma. 

After years as a teacher's aid in one of the best public schools in Wisconsin, my mom was hired by a small private school in the Milwaukee area to help alleviate their need for academic tutoring and cultural mentorship for the refugee children who were sponsored to attend there. 

I found this accurate description of their people and culture on
"The Karenni are a resilient, gracious people with a great sense of humor. They have a very strong work ethic, and don’t complain. They live out of a basic belief that life is difficult, so you do what you have to do in order to survive. If faced with a difficult task, they might respond with ‘a lay hey oh to’ (it doesn’t matter/ no problem). They demonstrate great dignity in providing for themselves and helping their fellow Karenni. They have a very strong connection and commitment to their own country, language, culture and people. They are not easily offended by outsiders (Americans), and are very appreciative of any kind of help they receive. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for them to ask for help, even if they desperately need it. They might be almost completely out of food, yet give you the last food that they have if you came to visit."

My children and I volunteered to be after-school tutors one afternoon this week.  After introducing ourselves, we helped the children with their spelling and memorization. 

Once their assigned homework was complete, we handed out the decks of cards I had purchased and began teaching them various card games. We played numerous games of Crazy 8 (a family favorite) and discussed the rules of Go Fish and Solitaire. 

After only a few turns each of Crazy 8, these children who were originally so timid and shy began smiling, laughing and opening up.  They talked about their families and the games they play.  We left feeling thankful for all we take for granted and the opportunity to share the experience with such friendly people.  And the students were all thrilled to leave with their very own deck of cards! 

We're already excited to go back again soon!

“Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well.” - Josh Billings

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