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THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: welcoming a new family to Qualicum Beach

The family spent the past 20 years in a refugee camp in Thailand

Saying “hello” is second nature to most people, but for one of Qualicum Beach’s newest families, this is something they’re just learning.

Qualicum Refugee Sponsorship Group core member Perry Perry said the family has that first exchange down.

“Often when we are out and about, someone will come up and say, ‘Is this our new family? May I say hello?’ The thing is to say, ‘Hello, my name is’ and then they will say ‘Hello, my name is and then how are you?’” Perry said.

Perry said very soon the family will be able to ask many more questions since they’ve been having daily language and life skills training lessons.

The family, which consists of the father Ah Dee, the mother Ta Paut Mu, grandmother Kyin Thaung, sons P’yo yo, Myint Oo and Hla Naing Oo and daughters Pyint Thu Zar and Eh Nyaw Paw, arrived in Canada in mid-July.

The family had been living in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand for the past 20 years — before any of the children were born.

When the family arrived in Vancouver, they were met by a small group of QRSG core members and a S’gaw interpreter. S’gaw is a dialect of the Karen language.

For the first few weeks, the interpreter stayed with the family. She has since left and now the family is getting English lessons from volunteers, while also using hand gestures to communicate with members from QRSG. The family speaks S’gaw but Ah Dee also speaks some Thai.

Through a translator, both Ah Dee and Ta Paut Mu told The News that they love the opportunity they’ve been given to live in Qualicum Beach.

Ta Paut Mu did say that the biggest challenge for her is that she can’t speak English to the locals, so she can’t communicate with other people very well yet. But she did add that she is happy that she has more freedom and opportunity here in Canada.

Ah Dee said the move is good for his five children because they have more opportunity such as attending school and getting to interact and play with other children.

The grandmother Kyin Thaung said she feels more comfortable in Qualicum Beach. She added that she loves it and has no problems.

Four of the children will be starting school in September. P’yo yo will be going to Kwalikum Secondary School while Myint Oo, Pyint Thu Zar and Hla Naing Oo will be going to Qualicum Beach Elementary School. Eh Nyaw Paw will be attending pre-school.

QRSG core member Anna Grieve said P’yo yo has been taking Pyint Thu Zar and Myint Oo for bike rides through the community.

Grieve said the community has been very inclusive.

“The community has really mobilized with including them in anything that we can as far as just even family outings,” Grieve said. So far, the family has gone to Family Day in Qualicum Beach, Art and Photography in the Garden at Milner Gardens and Woodland, local markets such as the Uptown Market and the Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market as well as a few family picnics.

“The first week was a lot of paperwork that had to be done for government documents getting their SIN numbers, their MSP, those kinds of things,” said Grieve.

The family has been settling into their seven-bedroom and four-bathroom Qualicum Beach home and Grieve said that Ah Dee has been learning how to cook and use the freezer and the family has started doing their own grocery shopping. Grieve added that the family brings a calculator with them when they go shopping.

“Ta Paut Mu, she is the financial wizard of the family,” Grieve said.

Since arriving in Qualicum Beach, the family has celebrated a few birthdays.

Perry said for Ah Dee’s birthday, the kids decorated a cake for him.

Grieve said Hla Naing Oo, who turned seven, had the family’s first birthday in Canada.

“We had hot dogs and a cake in their backyard, and that was the first time the kids had hot dogs,” Grieve said.

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