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From refugee to Red Cross member

In the small town of Nhill, Victoria, a group of long-term residents, mostly women, aged in their 60s, 70s and 80s regularly meet to plan and deliver fundraising activities for Red Cross. However, one member stands out from the small crowd - a man in his forties, hailing from the Karen people, who originate from Myanmar.

Monday January 23, 2017

Red Cross members Tha Hser Bleh Dah and Bev Morrow (left) present a thank you certificate to members of the Karen community for their donation.

Tha Hser Bleh Dah is a community-minded fellow. When he met Red Cross member Bev Morrow at a local event and she invited him to be part of Red Cross, it seemed like an obvious move for him.

"I believed working with the Red Cross would be a completely worthwhile project and wanted to be a part of the organisation," said Tha Hser. T

ha Hser's move to Nhill in 2011 followed a lifetime of seeking safety, after being persecuted because of his cultural background.

In 1977, when Tha Hser was only four years old, his village in Myanmar was burnt to the ground. His family fled to the Thai-Myanmar border and lived there for many years always under the threat of attack.

Then in 1982 their refuge on the border was attacked and they entered Thailand as refugees.

"I lived as a refugee for twenty-six years. Life in the refugee camp was very challenging.  We had no freedom, no human rights and were surrounded by barbed wire. We weren't allowed to go outside.

"I am very grateful to Australia for accepting me to stay in a free country."

When Tha Hser arrived in Nhill he immediately took to volunteering at the local Learning Centre, helping other Karen people settle into Australian life.

When the opportunity came to join Red Cross, he jumped at it as he enjoys working with his community and helping people in need. He meets regularly with the other Red Cross members to run fundraising events like the annual Red Cross Calling appeal and street stalls.

Long-term member Bev explains that about 200 Karen people live in Nhill, which has an overall population of about 2,000. They came to Nhill to fill positions at a local food producer.

"It's been a wonderful experience for Nhill and the Karen people," says Bev. 

"They've got houses, their kids go to the schools, they've got jobs at the supermarket, the school, the hospital, the council."

Bev has developed strong relationships with the Karen people and has enjoyed getting to know them.

"We all get on very well and we help them where we can. And they help us - they donated $250 to our Red Cross Calling appeal."

She is particularly delighted that Tha Hser has joined Red Cross.

"He is a community leader and an inspiration to us all. Its' unbelievable what he's gone through. It's very difficult to come to a new country but he loves it here and it's his home."

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