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The Life of a Refugee

Life is like frothed milk poured into black coffee – an eddy of dark and light colors, a strange mixture of highs and lows, where happiness and sorrow ebb and flow, and different people come and go.

Often, when refugees are mentioned, the darker aspect of their lives immediately comes to mind – their pain, despair, struggles. Society seems to have painted darkness as the only story that refugees have to tell, so much so that people are unable to see behind this veil--to realise that a refugee’s life is not only filled with negativity and unfortunate things. What about the fight to get out of this darkness, the journey of recovery, the path to healing, and the pursuit of happiness?

Having moved to Malaysia on October 20, 2012, Dim Lam Khup, a refugee from Myanmar, was faced with many serious challenges. He was living in Malaysia with no legal documents, and that made everything in his life difficult. Many employers asked for either his passport or UNHCR card, both of which he lacked, making it harder to find a job. After 10 years, he still does not have a UNHCR card.

I was afraid to face something difficult, and I thought I couldn’t do anything… I was worried that things would go wrong or unexpectedly...”

However, as the years passed by, Dim Lam Khup slowly learned to adapt to this new living condition. Compared to life in 2012, his life is better now, and this improvement is not said in regard to his income, but rather his mindset.

"Now when I face struggles, I hope what awaits me is a better day, a better life...”

Living in Malaysia as a refugee has taught him that everything in life can be good or bad depending on how we choose to respond to it. And though we cannot control what life throws in our way, we can most definitely control how we respond to those challenges. We control whether we want to grow from our battles, or be restricted and haunted by them. Now, Dim Lam Khup has a son, and his family is expecting the birth of a second child in the upcoming months. Though it can prove to be challenging, he still manages to provide for his family.

“Yes. By the Grace of God, I am happy now because I have a family, I have a son... Yes, I am happy now!”

So often, we fall into the trap of only assessing one aspect of a person’s life and evaluating them solely based on what we have seen. In doing so, we are blinded to the other stages of their life; we neglect the other achievements they have accomplished in the past; we disregard the potential they have for a better future. We only see one page from an entire book of a person’s life to judge them, and to judge them by that page is unfair. Yes, refugees live lives shadowed and haunted by despair and worry, but they also overcome these struggles day by day. And it is with this resilience, this strength, that all refugees should be commemorated.

Dim Lam Khup has allowed us to share the above details of his story.



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