The celebration started with cries of “Sa meh, sa meh!” (“Let’s eat!” in Burmese). Friends, family, and IRC staff gathered to cheer on Sian Khai, who after less than nine years in the United States, just purchased his family’s first home. Amongst the commotion of children playing and adults singing, everyone gathered around a table of delicious Burmese foods: rice, spicy chicken, and the office favorite, Lahpet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad).
It wasn’t that long ago that Khai and his family came through the IRC’s doors as newly resettled refugees. Then-employment caseworker Justin Gandy remembers in 2009 “Khai was always considering the long-term, and wanted to make sure he was making good decisions... to best support his family’s future.” Khai and his family settled into their new apartment and adapted quickly to their new surroundings. He began working at Star Concessions at Love Field Airport, and quickly became a leader in the Burmese community, helping even newer arrivals adjust to life in Texas.
After a few years, Khai returned to the IRC to give his time as a volunteer. Whether it was helping to update donated computers for newly arrived families or providing Burmese interpretation, Khai’s various skills became an indispensable part of the office. As a result, Khai was hired on in 2016 as an Assistant Employment Specialist. Just one year later, he was promoted to Employment Specialist and continues his support of refugees.
As the evening wound down and guests finished their plates, everyone joined the lengthy line to congratulate Khai and his family. Reflecting on his purchase, Khai said, “Now I have a home that I feel like is really mine, not someone else’s. This is my home.” After years of hard work and a journey of over 8,500 miles, Sian Khai has finally found a place to call home.
Story by: Alex Laywell