No Ra Mar, Ma Ma Aye and Pae Wah, pictured above, are about to depart for the United States, but to different places: Iowa, Texas and New York. “My father carried me to Thailand in his arms from our town in Karen state,” says Pae Wah. “We were running away from the fighting. It’s been 30 years.” The three agree on their hopes for the future, as expressed by Pae Wah: “I want to become a U.S. citizen. I hear I can have full rights as a citizen. I also hear that there are many different kinds of people, so I can be free.”

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As a bus prepares to leave Mae La camp, Burmese refugees say goodbye to loved ones for the last time. Soon they will start new lives in the United States. They are among the fortunate: only 1 percent of the global refugee population has a chance at resettlement.

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Mohammed Yunus, a Burmese refugee, has spent a decade trying to reunite his family. “I hope that I will be able to resettle in a place where I can learn,” he says. “I couldn’t study during my youth, and I am illiterate. I hope to get an education and be able to rebuild my life, and earn my happiness.”

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Children from all over the world, all awaiting the chance at resettlement with their families, pass the time in a small playground at the U.N. refugee agency compound in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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A refugee about to depart for America locates his new home on a map of the United States. RSC staff conduct preliminary interviews to confirm refugees’ eligibility for resettlement, and provide logistical and language support.

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Ahi Nyi Ngwa and her son, Saw Ah Pu, refugees from Myanmar, walked for one week to find safety in Malaysia. “I have high hopes, especially for my children,” says Ahi Nyi Ngwa, shown here while waiting for a screening interview. “Hope is the only thing that drives us forward, and that gives us strength for another day.”

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