Sunday, December 8, 2013

Season for Caring: New beds for refugee family


American-Statesman Staff


Uka Aung Min, 32, his wife, Naw, 36, and their 2-year-old daughter, Okee, slept on a bed off the floor for the first time Thursday night, thanks to local company Factory Mattress Sales.

For the fourth year, the bedding company has given new mattresses, box springs and bed rails, if needed, to the families in the Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which features the needs of families throughout Central Texas and highlights the work of local nonprofit agencies.

The Aung Min family were nominated by Project Transitions, which helps people who have HIV/AIDS. Uka Aung Min learned he had the virus while in a refugee camp in Malaysia. That’s the same camp where he met Naw and where Okee was born.

Season for Caring: New beds for refugee family, others with Factory Mattress Sales donation

In the camp, they slept in one room on the floor in an apartment they shared with two other families. They lived on fish and rice and $100 a month. Uka Aung Min pointed to a rug in the living room and said that in Malaysia or Burma, they would think that was a very nice bed.

Now in Austin, they have a two-bedroom apartment provided by Project Transitions; Uka Aung Min has a new job soldering electronic parts, and he was able to save for months to buy a used car. Naw Aung Min is signed up to take classes in January at Austin Community College to learn English. She’d like to become a nurse’s assistant.

Their American Dream has begun. And now they sleep on real beds.

Factory Mattress Sales warehouse supervisors John Moore and Dustin Montez arrived Thursday with a queen and a twin bed and bedrails.

“We’re going to get you taken care of today,” John Moore said. “How would you like them set up?”

Now in one of the bedrooms, the beds sit side-by-side. They’ve become accustomed to being in one room, together as a family, but when the time is right, they can now move Okee to the other bedroom. Their old mattresses on the floor will go to another Project Transitions family.

When Montez brought in the twin bed, he smiled at Okee and said, “This must be your bed.”

Okee tested both beds. They are just right, incredibly soft.

“You’re going to have a wonderful night’s sleep tonight,” Montez said to the family as he and Moore left.

“It’s very nice,” Uka Aung Min said. “Thank you.”

Mark Nelson, chief operating officer of Factory Mattress Sales, says giving to Season for Caring is an easy decision for the company. “It’s bona fide need,” he said. “People have determined that these families are really in need and in desperate situations. The need is real, and that’s not always the case.”

Season for Caring is not the only program the company has donated to this year. It has given 18 mattresses to victims of the Halloween flood so far, and working with The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, gave 200 sets to families in West. The Season for Caring donation is worth about $7,300, and beds will be delivered through January.

The Aung Min family still has many needs. Their most pressing is daycare for Okee, so Naw can go to school in January. They also would love help with medical bills, English tutoring, a couch, dressers, a toy box, a dining room set, small kitchen appliances and gift cards for gas, groceries and clothing. Uka Aung Min has been try to save to be able to buy Okee some new crayons and would love more educational toys for her.

To find out more about the Aung Min family or to donate something on the wish list, contact Project Transitions at 512-454-8646. For more information about Season for Caring, email community@statesman.com or call 512-445-3590.