EMBARC didn’t exist when Sam Ti Tha Zam first needed it. Sam emigrated from his native Burma after a two year stop in Malaysia, in 2011, two years shy of EMBARC’s advent in 2013. But they were destined for one another anyway. After all, EMBARC was formed with Burma refugees in mind, and their involvement with Southeast Asia is still strong. Its name is an acronym for Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, after all.
Sam found EMBARC in 2015, while he was still in high school. He worked with them on video projects while he went to Des Moines Area Community College, then formally joined the RISE AmeriCorps team as a macro communications member in 2020, just before graduating with his journalism/digital media degree in 2021.
“I remember the feeling of fear and confusion, not knowing how to navigate” Sam said. “I understand the feelings of hardship.”
That’s what made Sam a perfect fit now in RISE AmeriCorps, where he offered the kind of help genuinely needed.
There are 107 languages spoken by Burma communities and Sam knows three of the most common. On any given day, Sam could be found working with Burma community clients, many who speak his native Falam Chin, read their mail, understand billing, fill out forms, apply for assistance, or participate in a phone call. In addition, he used his education and expertise in videography to record multi-lingual footage that’s been posted in EMBARC’s YouTube channel that explains both skills and information varying as widely as COVID-19 advice, how to register a child in the Des Moines public school system, and replacing a filter at home.
“It’s hard sometimes, but I love it because I can help people in my community using my own language and culture.” And that’s the point. Finding new ways to call Des Moines home for everyone.