Meet Roe: ISP Intern
My name is Roe Lay Si. I am a refugee from Myanmar (Burma) and I came to the United States 7 years ago and am currently a student at TC3 majoring in Human Services. Because of my major, I am required to complete an internship. I began to think that I wanted to get an internship at Catholic Charities because they are a non-profit organization. I first heard about them when I moved to Ithaca and some of my family members told me they helped refugees and people who were in need. I went to them to get help in applying to become a U.S. citizen.
Because I wanted to learn more about their programs I scheduled a meeting and offered to be a volunteer. They kindly said yes and I am now officially doing an internship with the Immigrant Services Program and volunteering with their Samaritan Center. Through this experience, I am hoping to learn more about other refugees and their backgrounds, as well as their experiences in the United States. And I am hoping to help bridge and connect people to the community who may be isolated.
One project I am working on is trying to take a headcount of all the refugees from Burma who live in this area. In Ithaca, the Karen refugees mainly are part of 2 large families – one family probably has 60 members and the other family has around maybe 30 or 40 members. I would like to then create two family trees for those who are related. The family tree I am part of is the smaller one. On paper 30 to 40 people might not look like a lot but if you were to see all of us on the street, it would be a lot of people. Because I’m Karen, I will have to do my research and figure out who the Burmese are but I think there are around 50 of them in the area.
When I first came to the U.S., I was in living in Kentucky where there were many other refugees from Burma. I learned a lot from what they were faced with and what I had to face myself. I told myself that I am still young and strong, I must continue studying because there are lot of opportunities that are waiting for me. I needed to take advantage of those opportunities before it was too late. Just like the older people say, “An early bird catches the worm.”
I have overcome many obstacles that other refugees face. Things like learning English and then feeling comfortable speaking with others in English was very difficult. Also, finding my way around town and learning directions was very hard. Now I have a cell phone with GPS, but I didn’t have that when I first came here as a new refugee. Since I have faced many of the same obstacles that newer refugees now face, I want to help those who are finding it difficult to build their new future. I started a new life in a new country and now I’d like to give back to others by helping them learn from my experiences.