My name is Choesa aye. I am almost finished with my sophomore year at YES Prep West High School in Houston, Texas. I have two little sisters and one brother. I was born in a Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand but my parents are from Myanmar (Burma), a country that is made up of multiple ethnic groups. One of the ethnic groups is Karen, a persecuted ethnic group in a region of Myanmar. My parents were from a small village in Myanmar. They stayed in the villages until they were burned down. After the villages burned down, the villagers were subjugated to forced labor: building roads and acting as proctors for troops. Every aspect of life was under the Burmese government control. People were forced to leave their homes and seek out a better place to live.
My parents fled Myanmar over the mountains and the great rivers before I was born. I grew up in Mae La Refugee Camp. There were about 50,000 houses that were made out of bamboo walls, leaf roofs and dirt floors, and there was a constant stream of incoming refugees from Myanmar. As refugees, we had limited freedom. We couldn't pass the border that the Thai government had set for us. If the Thai troops caught you, you were imprisoned indefinitely. Especially if you were poor and couldn't bribe the troops that captured you.
After living in the camp for so many years, the United Nations offered an opportunity for us to resettle in a better place. My parents thought that the United States would be a better place for us due to the quality of the educational system and the abundance of opportunities. We came here in January 2009. It took us 3 days to travel to America. We hadn't eaten; we were sick and tired, but we made it through. We were amazed by all of the big buildings, the amount of cars and airplanes. It was such a privilege to experience all of these things for the first time. After living in America for five years, I have learned so many things and there are a lot more opportunities here that I would have missed out on in the camp.
As I enjoy the freedom and all of the wonderful opportunities that I have been blessed with in my life, this coming summer 2014, I have the opportunity to attend a summer program called NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). NOLS is a non-profit outdoor education company that teaches environmental ethics, technical outdoor skills, safety and judgment, and leadership skills on an extended wilderness expedition. There are many courses that involve backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing, snowboarding and many other activities. The one that I'm going to attend is a backpacking trip in Wyoming called the Wind River Wilderness course. Throughout the course, we will learn about leadership skills through teamwork, communication, and outdoor living. We will live and travel by being one with nature while applying outdoor skills on the course; we will learn how to be respectful to nature and apply effective decision making tools to real world problems. I will be hiking, traveling in the mountains, crossing rivers, and participating in many exciting tasks that will develop my individual character, as well as my physical condition, in 30 days.
I have conflicted feelings: On the one hand, I am overjoyed and excited about the course, but on the other hand, I am having financial difficulties and do not want to burden my family. In my family, my mom is the only one who works for our family and my dad can't work because of his disability that he suffered as a soldier in Burma. Due to this injury, he stays at home and takes care of us children who are all currently in school. I would be very appreciative of any contribution to my fundraising campaign that you could make.
I appreciate your time and consideration in this matter.
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