Charlene Delos Santos, our Multicultural 2nd Gen Coordinator interviewed Nay Gay Toe Aye, a member of Cloverdale Karen Baptist Church, to hear a bit of her story.
Nay’s parents were born in Burma but due to the conflict, their village was burnt down and they experienced a lot of violence. They fled from their village, and ended up in the Thai-Burma border, where they resettled in a refugee camp. Both of them lived in the camp for 20 years.
Nay and her siblings were born in the refugee camp. The camp is approximately 8km from the Thai-Myanmar border. The houses were made of bamboo and leaves, and she lived there for 13 years until she and her family moved to Australia.
Life in the refugee camp was difficult where they saw no future. You were not allowed outside of the camp, and every day, week, month, and year looked the same. There was a school, but once you completed high school, there were no opportunities for further education.
Nay’s parents wanted a brighter future for their kids. So, when they heard about Australia taking interviews for refugee settlement, her parents thought it was a good idea to take the opportunity and start afresh.
Due to their Christian faith, they prayed and trusted that God would resettle them in the right place. They came to Australia in 2007. It was difficult to resettle to a foreign place where they didn’t know anyone and didn’t know the language. Nay’s family was amongst the first few Karen families that resettled in Geelong. When they arrived in Australia, it was August, during winter and freezing for them!
At that time, Nay’s oldest sister and herself were the only Karen students at school. Not many people knew about the Karen background. She remembers introducing herself as ‘Karen’ (nationality), but everyone looked confused and asked if she meant ‘Korean’! Nay started her education in Australia during high school, and in Year 10 received a scholarship to Kardinia International College.
Ever since she was a kid, her dream was to become a teacher, so she studied a Bachelor of Education at Deakin University. She is now a teacher and has been teaching for five years. She is also studying Theology at Whitley College.
When Nay’s family first arrived in Australia, they became part of Cloverdale Baptist Church, where they experienced so much generosity and was taken care of so well by the church community. She is so grateful for the help that their fellow brothers and sisters gave to her and her family. They received help from transportation, food, clothing, and make friends. They felt so blessed!
They then started a Karen service as more Karen people started resettling in Geelong. Nay’s dad is now the Pastor of Cloverdale Karen Baptist Church, and Nay serves as a volunteer as the church’s Chairperson and being part of the Children’s ministry.
In the early days there were about 32 Karen people (including children) who were part of Cloverdale Karen Baptist Church, and now there are more than 200!
“I want to thank our Aussie brothers and sisters for making us feel welcomed. Thank you for your generosity, friendship, love and support. Thank you for helping us to have a brighter future here in Australia.”