Moses’s Story: A resilient survivor

On World Refugee Day, we share the inspiring story of Moses, who came to Canada as a refugee from Myanmar

At only 26 years old, Moses’s story spans continents, languages and cultures. Beginning in Myanmar, Moses and his family, of the Karen ethnic minority, fled the violence in the country and found refuge in a refugee camp on the Thai border before being relocated to Canada as government-assisted refugees. Moses reflects on the journey from Myanmar to Surrey, BC, as one that brought feelings of both excitement and sorrow. “I had mixed emotions of relief and gratitude for finding safety and a sense of loss from leaving my community behind,” Moses says.

Refugee surviving through the unexpected

Once he landed in Canada, Moses received life-altering news — he had a brain tumour. He faced a daunting journey ahead of navigating the health care system while still in the process of settling into BC both geographically and culturally, while facing language barriers.

Moses leaned on DIVERSEcity RISE case worker Hermon Lay, who shares the Myanmar heritage and Karen language. Hermon supported Moses through the process of accessing cancer treatment while building a new life in Canada.

“Hermon helped me access important services and resources in the community, such as language classes, job training programs, health care, legal assistance, mental health services and cultural orientation programs,” Moses says.

Hermon has been a case specialist with the Refugee and Immigration Specialized Experience, or RISE program, at DIVERSEcity for more than 16 years. RISE supports refugees and other newcomers who are experiencing complex and multiple challenges in settling into their new community.

“My goal is to bridge cultural gaps and promote integration through education and orientation, while providing emotional support and practical assistance to help refugees through tough situations, and Moses going through settlement and a new brain cancer diagnosis was by all definitions a tough situation,” says Hermon.

The two bonded over their shared heritage and fostered a connection that offered Moses the comprehensive support he needed to get through his treatment.

Moses beams as he adds, “With the support of Hermon, I received treatment at the hospital and am now a cancer survivor.”

Hopeful for the future with the help of DIVERSEcity

Standing here today, attending a Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, or LINC class at DIVERSEcity on a sunny June afternoon the day before World Refugee Day 2024, Moses is a symbol of hope. Many refugees can relate to his journey and story, including the mixed excitement and sorrow as you leave what you have known as home, the often-tricky navigation of Canadian public services and the continuous perseverance amid displacement.

“The experience of being a refugee has deeply influenced my identity and perspective on life [and] it has exposed me to displacement, loss, resilience and hope,” he shares with a smile.

But, with the support of Hermon and DIVERSEcity, Moses comments that he has “learned to adapt to new environments, overcome adversity and persevere despite hardship.”

Moses is now hopeful for the future. “Despite the difficulties I have faced, many refugees like me still maintain a sense of hope and optimism for the future, viewing their journey as a testament to the possibility of resilience, renewal and the potential for positive change.”

Learn more about the RISE program here.