Most people wouldn’t say their favourite thing about living in Qualicum Beach — or even Canada — is going to work and school, but for the Johdee family, it’s just that.
The Johdee family, formerly known just as the Qualicum Beach refugee family, came to Qualicum Beach last July after living in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand for 20 years — before any of the children were born.
The family, which consists of father Ahdee, mother Tapautmu, grandmother Kyinthaung, sons Pyoyo, Myintoo and Hlanaingoo, daughter Ehnyawpaw and their cousin Pyint Thu Zar, has spent the last 13 months adjusting to life in Canada.
Within a month of moving to Qualicum Beach, Ahdee got a job working at DemXx Construction in Coombs. The job, Ahdee said, started as part time with Ahdee attending English classes in the morning before heading out to work in the afternoon.
“I like it,” said Ahdee, adding that he did do construction work in Thailand, but he likes DemXx better.
The eldest son, Pyoyo, started working at Arrowsmith Automotive last November. Pyoyo started with washing cars, but as the summer months have rolled around, he’s started working more hours and helping with changing tires. Ahdee said Pyoyo enjoys working.
Pyoyo and Myintoo have also been doing odd jobs around the community, Myintoo said. They’ve been helping community members paint their houses and fences as well as helping out with gardening.
Back in June, Tapautmu started working at Riverside Resort and Campground in Qualicum Beach. Tapautmu said she helps with cleaning. She said she rides her bike to work and back home, but coming back home is a little more work since it’s a bit of an uphill commute.
While working lots, the past year has also been spent learning English, which Ahdee and Tapautmu agreed can be a difficult language to learn.
From September to June — the school year, Tapautmu said enthusiastically — Ahdee and Tapautmu have been driven to Nanaimo for English language lessons through the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society’s LINC program (Language Instruction for New Canadians). Kyinthaung has also had lessons, but most of her lessons have been in Qualicum Beach with the help of core members of the original Qualicum Refugee Sponsorship Group.
The original group has since disbanded to make way for a new group, but core members Carol Doering and John Cormie, along with many others are still helping the family.
Cormie said in the past year, the group connected with the Johdee family so much that it was inevitable that they would stay and help the family thoughout the ongoing transition.
The community has also been a great help with the Johdee family. Knox United Church in Parksville held a fundraising concert for the family to help pay off the family’s travel loan, and Cormie said many residents have donated their Quality Foods Q-Points which can be turned into “Rec Bucks” for Regional District of Nanaimo programs.
The family has been living in a town-owned home in Qualicum Beach for the past year with the lease ending in mid-September, said Doering, former-chair of the group. Doering said the volunteers have been meeting with town staff to allow the family to live in the home until September 2018, but the family would be paying the rent for the next year.
At the end of the interview with the family, Tapautmu came out of the family’s home with one last messgae: “Thank you to (the community) for helping my family.”