Squeals of Delight from a Young Citizenship Applicant

Every person has a birth story. Whether it was a cold, blustery winter day or a hot, sweltering summer day; that personal story becomes a part of each of our legacies.

Zar family in Thailand Refugee Camp

Dah (far right) and her family in the Tham Hin refugee camp in Thailand, in the early 2000s.

For 18-year-old Dah Dah, her flare for the dramatic likely originated from her birth story.

Dah was born on the very night her family was fleeing the civil war in Burma, now called Myanmar. Her parents, from the Karen people group, were crossing a very dangerous border into Thailand.

“The night we were running away, the night I was born, my mom and dad told me they could hear bombs exploding, gunshots, screaming and fire.”

Dah's mom with family portrait

Dah’s mother, Lah Thaw, holding a photo of her family in the refugee camp.

Her mother gave birth to her behind a truck they were riding in as they were crossing countries.

“When people ask me where I am from, I just say ‘the road, a truck’ cause I don’t know. My nationality is Karen, but I feel like it’s Thai because after I was born, I was cleaned in a Thai hospital.”

That confusion over Dah’s nationality has always stuck with her. Her early formative years were spent in a refugee camp in Thailand. Her family came to Minnesota when she was 7-years-old, and she was educated in the St. Paul Public School district.

Dah is ready to embrace a whole new identity: as a U.S. Citizen. Immediately after she turned 18-years-old, she came to Arrive Ministries to apply for citizenship. Dah is even theatrical when describing her experience filling out government forms.

“That was so exciting! It’s like I’m giving you information and you’re putting it down, whee! (she squeals). And the next thing you know it goes to the government, they review it and you might get an interview. Ahh! (she screams again).”

Dah Dah ROTC Como Park HS

Dah Dah graduated from Como Park High School; she was in choir, College Possible, Youth and Government, Soccer, Badminton, and in the ROTC program. She says her training in ROTC makes her confident that she will pass her citizenship test.

Dah Dah graduated from Como Park High School; she was in choir, College Possible, Youth and Government, Soccer, Badminton, and in the ROTC program. She says her training in ROTC makes her confident that she will pass her citizenship test.

Dah graduated from Como Park High School this spring, and plans to attend Bethel University, where she received a full-ride scholarship. She plans to study Theater (no surprise there) and International Business. She hopes the process of becoming a citizen moves along quickly, because this energetic young woman has adventures ahead of her.

“I want to travel to other places, with citizenship I will be able to travel. I want to get the chance to study abroad. I want to see the world, there is so much it has to offer.”

Once again, Dah’s vision for her future evokes a squeal of delight.

“Whee! Just talking about it gives me goosebumps.”

Dah was referred to Arrive Ministries from the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM); she’s been told it’s the easiest way for Karen people to become citizens. And Dah is anxious to begin her exploration of the world.

“I have a lot of plans, this process just needs to hurry up.”

Zar family in America

Dah’s whole family: her father and oldest sister are already U.S. citizens; her mom, brother and other sister are in the process of obtaining citizenship.

Dah’s whole family: her father and oldest sister are already U.S. citizens; her mom, brother and other sister are in the process of obtaining citizenship.

But she’s also looking forward to her new sense of identity that comes with being a U.S. citizen.

“I’m changing my name once I become a citizen back to my longer given name.”

So in addition to embracing her birth name of Eh Khu Dah Sho Sho Shoo Zar; Dah is also excited to soon have a home country.

“I will say, ‘I’m Karen, but I’m a U.S. Citizen.’ And becoming a citizen will give me the freedom to do what I want to do.”

About Arrive Ministries

Arrive Ministries provides Refugee Reception and Placement Services, Refugee Employment Services, Refugee Cash Assistance, Immigration Legal Services, ESL classes and tutoring, community development programs and other outreach services unique to various refugee populations and their needs and challenges.

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