A teacher of parenting skills who is always there to help – World Refugee Day 2018
Des Moines, Iowa – For World Refugee Day 2018, Sarah Hubbard celebrates her colleague, parent navigator Iris Tun, who helps refugees learn parenting skills in the United States.
Iris is a Parent Navigator with the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC) in Des Moines, Iowa. As a communications coordinator at EMBARC, I recently sat down with Iris to talk about a special Mother’s Day post. Iris helps parents from the Burma refugee community learn about life and parenting skills in the United States.
“I was so lucky to become a mom in a refugee camp.” Lucky. That’s the word Iris used when I was talking to her about the differences between being a mother in Burma and being a mother in the United States. Iris’ three sons were all born in Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, which had a very basic clinic for the refugees that lived there. It doesn’t begin to compare to hospitals in the United States, but it was enough to keep Iris and her three sons alive. One of her friends wasn’t so lucky. In rural Burma, there is incredibly limited access to any medical care and traditional medicine is widely embraced. Because of this, Iris’ friend passed away during childbirth.
Iris knows that what happened to her friend could just have easily happened to her. When Iris came to Iowa in 2008, she knew she wanted to give back to her community to honor her friend’s life. However, she quickly realized that life in the United States wasn’t easy for refugees. Iris’ community struggled to find resources after their initial resettlement assistance ended.
“When I came to Iowa, my community didn’t speak English. I spoke a little bit of English, so I became the person that everyone came to for help,” says Iris. “Now, more people speak English and they still come to me! It’s not a burden, it’s an honor.”
Working with Iris every day has showed me how proud she is of being an ambassador for the Burma community. Her phone is constantly ringing, and no matter what people need her for, Iris is there to help with unparalleled grace and a friendly smile. Even during the busy parent-teacher conference season, Iris is more than happy to take on additional responsibilities to help others.
Iris is truly an inspiration to me. She steps up to assist her community at all hours of the day and night.
She learned Burmese after she arrived in the United States so she could help people needing parenting skills outside of her native Karen people. She says yes to whatever is asked of her and does so without a single word of complaint. I aspire to be more like Iris and am so blessed to be able to work with her during my AmeriCorps term.
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World Refugee Day 2018
This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place.
Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.