Pearl and her daughter playing in the park

My name is Pearl. I am a refugee from Burma.

In Burma, I lived in a small village. I am part of the Karen people – an ethnic minority in Burma. We were persecuted by the Burmese authorities. The village had Christian and Buddhist people there who separated and started fighting.

At the end of 1994, the authorities told us to leave within two weeks. My family fled over the border to Thailand. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) supported us there. They gave us bamboo sticks and sheets to sleep under.

But our refuge wasn’t safe. A few months later, Burmese soldiers came across the border and burned the camp down. So I fled to another refugee camp, where I found my sister.

I lived in the refugee camp for a long time. I even got married there and had two children. I dedicated my time to community health work. In a crowded refugee camp, health care is very important.

I heard about resettlement in another country through the UN workers. I wanted better opportunities for my children, so I signed up. I put our names in a box with no choice about where we would go. I just knew we would have a life outside the camp.

I was shocked when I found out we had been accepted by the UK. I didn’t know anything about life in England. I was afraid and confused about what would happen to us there.

When we arrived, Refugee Action met us at the airport. They took us to our new home and explained things like how to lock the door and how to use the cooker. It was all completely new to us. My children had never even sat on a sofa before!

In our first week, a lady from Refugee Action showed us where the shops were, how to get a bus, how to pay our bills. She was a lifeline for us, but she also encouraged us to do things for ourselves. I don’t know what we would have done without her. But now we are very happy in our new home.

Now I’m a volunteer assistant teacher and my ambition is to become a teacher one day. My children are doing well in school. I find the people here very kind and good. I like living here – the community is nice and my home is beautiful.