Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Chin Refugee and WKU Student talked on SNAP


Thank you for replying. 

If it's alright with you I'd like to ask you a few more questions about your experience with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps. 

First, I want to make sure I'm spelling your name correctly. It is Bernar Dine, correct? 

When I spoke with you briefly you said that you receive $668 in SNAP benefits? How often do you receive this amount? Is it every month?

How does the Supplemental Nutrition Program help your family? Can you give an example of how the recent cuts are impacting your family?

Also, you mentioned that you're expecting another $200 decrease now that you are working. What do you do at the International Center? Do you have any other jobs? Does your wife also work?

Can you tell me more about your past as a refugee? How long have you been living in America?

I want to understand more about how these cuts are a problem for your family. If there is anything you would like to add please do.

I'd like to thank you for answering my questions.


Western Kentucky University Student

Reply from Cho Chin Refugee to WKU Student

Hi , 

I got your voice message on my office phone when I got back to and thank you for your email again. 

My name is Bernardine from Burma, and I belong to Cho Chin tribes. You might need to learn more about Burmese Ethnic groups if I introduce you myself as Cho Ethnic.

I had been living in Malaysia for 6 years as a refugee with my family till I come to Bowling Green. My family and I were resettled here on 25th May,2013, 6 months ago with the help of International Centre where I am now working with. 

After two weeks of our arrival, we received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps, in total $ 668. We got the benefits till the Government shut down and it was cut off $ 30 out of $ 668. We are still fine. 

This month, I got a letter from Cabinet office to update family incomes, then so , I have to show up all my monthly incomes from International Centre. A few weeks later, I got another letter from SNAP, and it is reported that we will receive $ 316 starting from Jan,14 till June, 14. I believed that they are going to cut off about $ 200 but now more than $ 300. Anyhow, I really appreciate the US government for the supports to Burmese Refugees and I still have something to go.

To be honest, I am really afraid of having a hard time for another six months because it was just fine with what we had before $ 668. The rest of our small incomes, I can spend on domestic material needs. As newcomers, we need almost everything. This is just a start for my family, we left everything behind in Burma and in Malaysia. What I mean is that we, of course, had to depend on SNAP and now I have to spend $ 300 for food out of my monthly incomes and I am very sure I find difficulty to adjust expenses. It was really helpful to my family's sufficiency. 

What do you do at the International Center?

I am working for International Centre as a case manager starting from a month ago and I earn hourly $ 10 and I am not allowed to work more than 8 hours a day. Mostly, I can work only 25- 30 hours per week out of 40 hours. I pay $525 for rent, Gas $ 30, Utility $ 150- 200 and water $40-50. Internet bill $ 60, phone bill $ 50, Car Insurance monthly $ 160, and we have to pay back IOM loans every month $ 115 to USCRI, for air tickets. These are our monthly bills. 

I earn about $ 1100 every month after tax from International Centre. Now we are using Heating and I am not very sure that Utility will increase. 

Do you have any other jobs?

I don't have any other jobs except International Centre but I would be happy if i can find working from home to make extra some incomes to cover the needs of my family. Do let me know if Western Kentucky University has any opportunity to provide working from home or Part-time for refugees. I appreciate it. 

Does your wife also work?

No, She is not working because we having children under age, they go to School. There should be somebody who will pick up the chidren when they are back from school under US law. And also my wife is expecting. 

Can you tell me more about your past as a refugee? How long have you been living in America?

I have already mention above about my experiences as a refugee in Malaysia and I have been here in Bowling Green for 7 months from our arrival. 

To tell a story of my experiences as a refugee in the past would be a very long story but I have a dream to write some of my experiences on my own website but not yet, may be one day. My Refugee Life in Malaysia was something that I say " bad dream or nightmare". We are resettled here is something like, it is ,for us, dawn coming through the midnight.

I run a non-government organization in Malaysia to help my fellow refugees and you may find some informations at I could not update community webpages and our services but you can still find some information what we were and who we were! 

To add more about refugee in Bowling Green, 

Newly resettled refugee has supports from International Centre till 3 to 6 months, it is a good support but I will say it is not enough for the family. In deed, the family needs support about one year because there are lots of Medical appointments and follow up. We are really in need of transportation assistance, and interpreter services. 

They need more free language providers somewhere refugees can travel or working distance or the best is churches. I personally found that some of refugees lost their hope with what they have come through. 

They need a lot of supports such as community orientation such as US cultures, Living Style, and most important is US Laws. For example, one of Burmese refugees got a fight with his co-worker, that makes him difficult to find another job on his background check. One reported that I didn't understand the US laws and it happened to me. What a pity story! Most refugees are very stressful now and in the past they have come through. Though most people those who are working for refugees, they cannot understand them because they cannot see what was their experiences. I am questioned for many times " What is refugee ? and Where is Burma?

Please feel free to contact me if my answer doesn't meet your points. I would be happy if you have any suggestion or points of views for me. Thank you. 

With best regards,
Bernardine Cho Lam Naing
Myanmar Refugee International