Tin Lia, a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Member at EMBARC, was born in Mandalay, Burma, where his parents owned a restaurant and were leaders of the Chin community.
Tin’s refugee journey began when increasing economic hardship led Tin, his father, and his brother to make plans to go to Malaysia to earn money to send back to their family in Burma. To get to Malaysia, Tin and his father had to illegally pass through Thailand. This dangerous journey took 25 days. While working in Malaysia (illegally), Tin and his family heard about the possibility of applying for refugee status to go to the United States. Tin’s father was accepted to relocate to the United States, and Tin was young enough to go with him. However, Tin’s brother was too old and had to stay behind in Malaysia to wait for his own possible clearance. Tin’s mother and sisters were also left behind in Burma.
While arriving in the United States was a dream come true it was filled with many hardships for Tin and his father, who suffered a stroke just 19 days after arriving. Tin also found a challenge in enrolling in the Des Moines Public School system because of his age and lack of English proficiency.
To overcome these great challenges, Tin turned to EMBARC, a local Burma led nonprofit. He came for help with his father’s medications and appointments. He also received a mentor to help with with food, transportation, and English skills.
Tin later came back to EMBARC for help enrolling at Hoover High School to obtain a high school diploma. Despite being over the age limit to sign up for high school classes, EMBARC successfully advocated for Tin’s enrollment. When he entered Hoover High School, Tin’s English abilities consisted of “yes” and “no,” but EMBARC and DMPS had faith in his ability to overcome his challenges. After five months at Hoover, Tin could pick up on the class material and in 2018, Tin graduated from Hoover High School.
After his graduation, Tin joined AmeriCorps RefugeeRISE. As an AmeriCorps member, Tin hopes to gain more experience, further his education, and become more familiar with the Des Moines area. In addition, Tin values being able to help individuals from Burma. Tin loves being able to connect individuals from the Chin community to the services available at EMBARC. He also loves that AmeriCorps allows him to dedicate time to help his community and those in need. Following his AmeriCorps service, Tin hopes to continue his education. He hopes to either continue serving his community or to attend seminary.
About the Blog
The service members of RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps have compiled stories of success during their membership. This blog was created with the intent of sharing these valuable stories with the public.