My name is Moo Ku Taw. I was born in Thailand. When I was 2 months old, due to war, my family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand. I lived in a camp called Umphiem. The UN provided us with a little food every month, like rice, oil, and beans, but many people did not have enough food. I was raised in Umpiem and spent most of my life there until 2008 when I came to the United States.
Life in Umpiem was not as simple as it is here. The house I lived in was a stilt house made out of bamboo, with a roof made out of hay. We did not have running water, electricity, or transportation. To get water, we had to walk miles to the river. There, we would fill our big water bottles and bring them home to fill the water barrel. We had to do that several times until our water barrel was full. Our house had many windows to get as much light as we could to study during the daytime. At night, we used candles, but they didn’t shine through the whole house.
To get an education, many people had to walk 30-40 minutes every day. Some people didn’t get to go to school because their family could not afford it and some had to support their family. I was lucky because I had the chance to go to school and learn. I went to school there for four years until I came to America. We had to wear uniforms every other day and a Karen shirt on the other days. Some people could not buy new uniforms, so they had to wash it as soon as possible to get it clean.
We had to study and do our homework every single night. If you did not do it, the teacher would hit you or make you run around school as everyone watched you. Our school was poor. Our walls were made of bamboo and metal roofing. We had a small chalkboard in every class. Usually, there were six rows of long benches and tables that were made out of bamboo for us to sit. Boys sat on one side and girls on the other side. We did not have computers or light. Our roof had holes, but it wasn’t replaced because it was too expensive, so when there were storms, rain water leaked on us. Many times we had to run home because it had rained and there weren’t meteorologists there to tell us about the weather. Many people got soaked and became sick.
Coming to America, life was so much easier. School is better and life got better. We do not have to walk far to get water because we have running water. We have transportation here and it makes life much easier. My goal for this project is to share about the Karen life in a Thai refugee camp.
Written by Moo Ku Taw