“I have a family for you,” the resettlement worker told me. “Their situation is a really good example of the struggles that Burmese families face.”
I’d asked Jen Cordaro to help me find a family whose experience could illustrate the day-to-day challenge for Burmese refugees. More than 200 families have arrived in San Diego since 2006.
So Cordaro drove me and photographer Sam Hodgson to an aging apartment complex in City Heights, where we talked to a woman named Ah Lee Mar and her husband, Mat Sa Pi. But we were quickly drawn in by a young man sitting nearby, who though deaf and unable to speak, somehow managed to talk to us with his eyes.
Cordaro told us about Har Sin, who’d grown up deaf in a refugee camp having never learned to communicate. When we met him, he was waiting for a seat in an adult literacy class for the deaf.
|Resettlement worker Jen Cordaro plays with Har Sin’s niece, Cho Maya, in the courtyard outside the family’s apartment.|
We saw an opportunity to tell the story of a man learning language for the first time in his life. He faced huge obstacles, but his yearning to overcome them was evident in the enthusiasm of the simple gestures he used.