Aung gardening .

The Buffalo Refugee:

A Testament to the Power of Hard Work and Inclusivity

The Story of Aung Nanda

Mr. Aung Nanda is a father, community leader, and success story of Buffalo’s Refugee Resettlement program. His valuable experience going through the resettlement process in Buffalo and working with various community organizations has rendered him an excellent ally and a leader within the refugee population and the City of Buffalo as a whole.

The Nanda family lived as refugees long before they came to the United States on April 10th, 2013. Mr. Nanda and his family spent years in Malaysia after fleeing from an oppressive government and a lack of opportunity in their native country Burma.

Burma.

Aung and his family at cultural fair.

Though they lacked a sense of permanence in Malaysia, they waited ten years to come to the United States and resettle permanently ​through the help of UNHCR​. Mr. Nanda expressed an appreciation for the time they spent​ at Malaysia​, he has always been a hard worker and will do anything to provide for his family. Malaysia served the them well because, unlike other refugee camps (especially those in Thailand), they received minimal financial assistance, allowing him to develop valuable work and language skills. His work in Malaysia primed Mr. Nanda for a job in the United States - which he achieved within just two months of arrival.  

Malaysia.

Aung and his family.

Mr. Nanda describes Buffalo as “the best place [for refugees] to start.” Throughout the resettlement process, the greater Buffalo community were welcoming to and inclusive of Mr. Nanda and his family. The extensive Burmese community in Buffalo (which they estimate to be about 12-15 thousand) helped them to maintain a sense of home and comfort in ​the​ new city. Additionally, organizations such as ​Jericho Road Community Health Center​ and ​Catholic Charities ​ were important sources of information throughout the transition. Though the ​Nanda family​ do not interact too often with their current next-door neighbors, they can drive a few minutes and socialize with their many friends in the Burmese community. 

Mowing the lawn.

Aung tilling his garden.

Although Mr. Nanda spoke highly of the programs aiming to help refugees find employment, transportation, and housing, he struggled with finding the ​right schooling environment for his children. ​The Nanda family found that despite the acceptance that their children felt in the school, school administrators and teachers lacked awareness or did not prioritize the additional needs of English language learners and students transitioning to U.S. culture. He believes these practices and more frequent communication between teachers and parents could help students like his children. Thankfully, through his consistent and diligent effort to work multiple jobs, Mr. Nanda was able to buy his family a beautiful home (with an incredible garden that he tends to) in Kenmore, NY. The Kenmore School District has shown a more individualized focus for his kids, who are thriving academically and enjoying extracurricular activities such as rifle, tennis, and art.  

Aung and Family .

Aung and his family.

As a child, Mr. Nanda enjoyed outdoor play. As an adult, he maintains his love of nature through gardening. Mr. Nanda believes the city could benefit from more outdoor spaces for children to play; in his opinion, time outside would enrich the life of Buffalo residents and refugees who may have had more outdoor spaces in their home country. Mr. Nanda encourages his kids to spend time outside - equipping his backyard with a trampoline, soccer equipment, and other fun activities - and hopes to eventually move somewhere with more outdoor space. 

garden .

Photos of Aung's garden. 

The most knowledgeable and helpful people for new refugees in Buffalo are individuals and families that have been through the process themselves. ​He had previously volunteered as a translator when he first got to the United States using his knowledges for three different languages (Burmese, Thai and English) at Journey’s EndsInternational Institute, and Catholic Charities for people in the same situation as him. Now he work part times at these organizations in his free time to help other members of his community. ​With a wealth of information about finances, housing, transportation, and jobs, as well as the importance of being proactive in taking advantage of programs offered by local organizations, Mr. Nanda stands as a pillar of the Buffalo community. 

Photo of Mr. Nanda's garden

Authors: Gina Mersereau & Joaquin Fontanez-Vargas.

Editors: Aung Nanda & Jessica Scates

Design: Nicole C. Little