Kaziah Josiah- Community Member, and Burmese refugee
my name is Kaziah Josiah. I came to the United States in 2004. my parents were originally from Burma and then I was born in Thailand. I grew up in Thailand until I was nine years old and I moved here. It was a bit of a cultural shot. When I was in Thailand, I learned English a little bit, but it wasn't to the point where I can come here and speak in a full sentence. It was just basic stuff. But when I first came here, I was the only Karin student in the entire Elementary school. I remember not knowing anybody because 2004 was when the first wave of Karin migrants came. there weren't a lot of Karin people at all. the school I went to was a Public school and it was pretty diverse. even though there weren't any Karin students,
A lot of Karin people that came here, came from refugee camps where they already knew each other. I grew up in Thailand, I didn't really go to a proper Karin school. I didn't really know how to read or write Karen. I only knew how to speak. When I went to church or when I was asked to read or write something in Karin, I wouldn't know and then my peers would make fun of me.
I feel like I have multiple identities because my parents were born in Burma, but then I grew up in Thailand, I'm Karin and now I'm an American. I had to overcome all these identities and just accept who I am. If people try to make fun of me, then I can't really change the way they think.
I didn't really find my place until I actually went to college. I went to St. Olaf. It was farther out. It's not in the city. During that time, I had a lot of questions about myself and sometimes I felt like I didn't really know who I was. I had to deal with my own identity crisis. After graduating I realized that I eventually had to come back to my community.
I just tried to embrace all the identities that I have. I don't know much about my parents except their history of coming from Burma to Thailand, but I remember my experience living in Thailand, growing up there and then coming to America. It's like a whole different level so culture shock. But eventually, you learn to accept different cultures.
Sometimes I feel like the younger generation probably has this identity crisis like what I was going through. I guess because a lot of them don't know how to read or write Karin anymore and they’re trying to go back in and find their roots. It's really important because this time there's so many Karin people in Minnesota, and there's a lot of opportunities for the younger generation to actually do something for the community. So, knowing who you are is really important.
I'm really ambitious to help my community. I'm really trying hard to bridge the gap between the older and the younger generation and also help my community learn about the laws. I work with people who have substance abuse issues, and people who have mental health issues. I noticed that all clients that have a substance abuse issue end up in my treatment program because they don't know the laws. Most of them receive one DWI, and then they have probation for two to three years, they have to come to treatment as well. A lot of them don't know why they were there. All they know is that they have to complete the program and sometimes they don't know that.
My dad was really a big advocate for the community when he first came to Minnesota. I didn't realize how important it was for him back then but looking back I can see why he was doing all these things and why he was never home.
Being able to go to college and then finishing college is my biggest accomplishment. As a first-generation student, you don't have that many resources to help you push forward. You don't really have a mentor to help you. You're just pretty much on your own. luckily, I have older siblings that guided me through that. But we're all first-generation students so being able to graduate from college was a big moment for our parents.
Be ambitious and don't give up. Sometimes people expect a lot from us, especially our parents, they expect that we're supposed to do this and that but, you know, just try not to give up because we're working really hard. Just don't be discouraged just continue to work hard and accomplish your goals definitely that's the last question.
I think it's really important for people to really be involved, even if it's just advocacy or just acknowledging each other. it's really important to start thinking about this because I noticed that with my community sometimes, they don't want to get involved. Even simple things like voting. They don't want to get involved and they’re not aware. that's one thing that I really want to help my community to start learning how to vote.