Tee Mo and her husband moved to Houston in 2009, with their three-year- old daughter. They are originally from the Rakhine State, in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a country in Asia. “We lived [there] a long time. My mother, my father, grandmother and grandfather they lived there forever. But the Burma Government, they killed all the people, and that’s why we cannot live there anymore. That’s why we didn’t have [a] home, we didn’t have food, we didn’t have anything.” Tee Mo explained. After losing their home in the war, Tee Mo and her family were forced to move to a refugee camp in neighboring Thailand. According to Tee Mo, life in the camp was very secluded, “We don’t have jobs in Thailand camp. We cannot go to Thailand or Burma. We cannot leave the camp. When we go to Thailand the Thai police, arrived. Just live in the camp every day.” Tee Mo and her family lived in the refugee camp for ten years, 1999-2009.
Tee Mo and her family applied for refugee status in the United States and were accepted. They arrived by plane and immediately started building a life here in Houston. Because Amaanah Refugee Services is well known in the refugee community, Tee Mo, and her husband sought them out for guidance. “First, when we go there we needed furniture. We didn’t have anything in the home. We go to Amaanah. That’s where we met Ghadah. She works for [Amaanah] and she helps us get furniture. And we know each other, so we continue to go there. Amaanah paid a little bit for the truck, $100 [to deliver the furniture].”
Tee Mo didn’t know any English when she moved here. Luckily her apartments held a class once a week for two or three hours, so she’s been able to develop her skills.
Shortly after Tee Mo and her family resettled in Houston her mother came to joined them. Her husband works for an enterprise company driving shipment trucks, and Tee Mo is a stay-at-home mom. Since they’ve been in the states, they’ve added to their family. They now have three daughters, ages nine, six and eight months. Tee Mo says they spend a lot of time at home, “We want to do like… Americans holidays and the whole family take vacations, but we never did that. Just stay home because we don’t have money to [travel], so we just stay home. We want to go like… to the beach, to the movie theater or wherever. The museum or zoo, but we [can’t afford] ticket.”
But, even though they may not be the wealthiest family in America, when asked if she’d move back home if her country were able to find peace Tee Mo said, “I don’t want to move there. I like it here. Here is like freedom.” She continued, “Anywhere we want we can go. We eat, if we want to go to school, we can. Much better from my country.”
Tee Mo’s goal in life is to help as many refugees as she can. She started volunteering at Amaanah a while back and has recently started getting paid for time she spends helping there. “It is my goal…I want to help refugees because refugees are so poor. I want to help.”