Junior beats diversity at a young age


Contributed by Dawt Hlei

Junior Dawt Hlei poses in front of her Chinese school in Malaysia. She was 4 years old when the photo was taken.

Sui Par, Reporter

While junior Dawt Hlei was born in Malaysia, she and her family made the move to the U.S. when she was only seven years old.
Like most refugees, the motive behind their move to the U.S. was for an easier and less restrictive life. When her parents became aware of the UN helping refugees, they quickly got information and started their journey. By the time her parents made it to Malaysia, Hlei was not yet born.
According to Hlei, travelling through Malaysia was a necessity for her parents and is also the easiest route in order to reach the US.
“It wasn’t easy to purchase a one way ticket to their desired destination so it was their only choice,” Hlei said.
They ended up living there longer than they originally expected. Unlike many Chin refugees, Hlei’s family lived in Malaysia for about 14 years in total. The amount of time refugees stay in one place depends on whether they pass or fail the UN test. Sometimes the amount of time spent in once place is based just on luck.
For Hlei’s situation, it was because her mom kept failing the test and they had to wait for her older siblings to also come to Malaysia. In order for the rest of the family to reunite, they needed money. So her parents worked and saved up money in order to help the rest of the family make it to Malaysia. Hlei’s parent wanted to leave behind the country, but wanted to do it as an entire family.
For many of the Chin refugees, Malaysia is known to be a very dangerous and risky place to live in. In fact, many of the men end up in jail without even committing a crime. If they look like foreigners, they are stopped and are asked for their ID, which most don’t have. This results in many refugees trying their best to stay indoors and not go out too often, in fear of being stopped by the police. For Hlei’s family, this wasn’t a problem at that time because her parents were citizens of the country and they were surrounded by Chinese residents making them blend in.
There, Hlei attend a Chinese school that was a few minutes away from where she lived, allowing her to walk there alone. According to her, it wasn’t difficult to make friends or anything because her parent’s boss’ kids also attended the school and she had already befriended them. Since her everyday life included hanging out with Chinese speaking people, she caught onto the language very quickly and knew the basics. Although, she has forgotten it all now.
“I knew the language to the extent where I could communicate with the teachers and my friends,” Hlei said.
Her fondest memory of the place she grew up in was the Chinese New Year celebration, which was celebrated by her neighbors. She enjoyed watching the dragon dance, getting treats and receiving money from the elders. Hlei wishes to visit her old home again one day.
“I would totally love to go back and visit Malaysia even first before my own country,” Hlei said.