When political upheaval in Myanmar forced 17-year-old Trudy Mawlay and her two sisters to flee their country and live in a refugee camp in Thailand, little did the girls know that a happier and more productive life was waiting for them halfway across the world.
It has been 10 years since they left the refugee camp to arrive in Ottawa along with other members of the Karen community.
“The early years were so hard. I started going to high school without knowing the language or understanding the culture. Naturally, I struggled very hard to make sense of my surroundings and to make new friends,” recalls Trudy.
Over the years Trudy has transformed from a quiet teenager unsure about herself to a confident, well-educated young woman who now works tirelessly to support the youth in her community.
With CCI support, Trudy manages the Ottawa Karen Youth Centre (OKYC) which opened earlier this year to provide young Karen people with a “positive environment to develop their social identity, healthy relationships and interpersonal skills.”
Trudy adds their aim is to decrease the isolation of the youth within the community and to provide a safe space where the they can share their knowledge and experiences.
“The idea is to help them maintain their cultural identity while integrating fully into Canadian society so that they can contribute positively to the country we all now call home.”
(Pictured: Members of the Ottawa Karen community pose in their new youth centre).