Part of an ongoing series highlighting the inspiring people and organizations working to address hunger and its root causes in our communities.

“My name is Naw Bee. I am from the country of Myanmar. Currently, I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and three kids. 

“My community is the Karen ethnic group. Back in the country of Myanmar, there’re a lot of different ethnic groups that reside in the country. The Karen is one of those groups. A lot of Karen people have immigrated to the United States through the refugee program. We engage in our own community with people just like us regularly however, we still participate in everyday American life outside our community.

“I found out about Oregon Food Bank through friends and colleagues. I heard that the Food Bank was an organization that donated free food to families in need. Also, I knew that members from the Oregon Food Bank have been helping our Karen Community by educating us on gardening, giving us land for our gardens, and providing us with the needed tools and seeds. In addition, they also encouraged us and taught us the importance of filling out our Census forms and how it affects our community. 

“COVID-19 has made me nervous and worried for my family’s well being like never before. Life is a lot different from what it was before. My children can’t go to school anymore, and my husband is on break to prevent risk of possibly bringing home the disease from work. Everyone is safe at home, but unfortunately this pandemic is negatively affecting my children’s learning. In addition, I have received unwanted attention and discrimination. Strangers are scared and grossed out by me because I am Asian, and they think I have the disease. Whenever I go out, parents tell their children to stay away from me and they give me dirty looks. Now I am scared for my children. I am worried that the same thing will happen to them whenever they go out. I want this all to end as soon as possible. 

“I would like to personally thank the government of the United States and all the kind citizens of America for their support and giving my family a home. My message to the Oregonians, from an immigrant’s standpoint, is that all immigrants came to this country to seek a better life and fulfill their hopes and dreams. They came here because they wanted to be with their family, they needed protection, they wanted to find work, and to seek better opportunities for their children. They are forever grateful for the chance they were given to lead a more prosperous life, and they understand the responsibilities and burdens that come with being a citizen. They want to contribute to bettering our nation and watch it grow just like you and I. 

I am helping out my Karen community members with filling out the 2020 Census forms online. I reach out to them by phone and explain to them as I take them step-by-step through the form. They are informed that it is one of their responsibilities as residents of America. The Census is important to our state government, our community, our families, and ourselves. By filling out the census form, each individual and households are accounted more accurately in our state’s population. This lets each state get more accurate and fair representation in The House of Representatives, and it determines how much more funds the states should be granted so they can give back to their communities.

“With more representation in government and more funds, communities will thrive and grow better. That it is why it is important to our community — and more people need to understand that.”

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