Participant to Employee


Once a refugee, now an advocate

Paw came to the U.S. as a refugee from Northern Burma/Myanmar, after living in a refugee camp for 14 years. In the camp she lacked educational opportunities, had access to very few resources, and lived in constant fear for her safety.

She began high school in the United States unable to speak English, but participated in Heartland Alliance refugee youth programs which she credits with getting her out of her comfort zone and giving her a safe place to grow. Paw quickly excelled, graduated in the top 10 of her high school class, and then went on to attend college and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Justice Studies.

Realizing that she could help other refugees and immigrants to succeed in their new communities, she began volunteering.  Over seven years, she’s worked closely with Burmese and Karen refugees from Thailand in her community, helping to translate and fill out job applications.   She became the Substance Abuse Prevention Youth Case Manager at Heartland Alliance, where she works closely with refugee youth from all over the world. As Paw sees it, she feels fortunate to get a chance to help those who struggled in the same way she did all those years ago.

“I’m passionate about helping others, advocating for refugees, and making a difference.”

This past February,  Paw was one of only 25 refugee youth leaders in the nation selected to participate in the first U.S. Refugee Youth Consultation in Washington D.C.  The event was part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ annual Non-Governmental Organizations Consultations.

“I’m so thankful I can now help other refugees. I’m very happy to be able to work with and advocating for people who are going through what I’ve gone through.”

We’re inspired by Paw and moved by what can happen through programs that help people bring to life the future they envision.