Stories: Pau

The Drive to Succeed

What if the most dramatic change in your life began with “And then the soldiers came?”

For so many refugees resettled by RefugeeOne, this is how their story begins: And then the soldiers came and attacked our village…and then the soldiers came and took my father….and then the soldiers came and grabbed her off the street.

For one young Burmese farmer, Thang Tung Pau, his story starts “Our family did not fight the junta, we tried to get along and not be involved at all. I was working in my family’s apple orchard and then the soldiers came for me.”


Pau, like many Burmese, uses his family’s name as his first name. He was dragged out of the orchard in front of his pregnant wife and his aging parents. What followed was three years of forced labor in a jade mine.

One night, Pau saw his opportunity. He slipped away from the mine and crossed the border into Thailand. There, he was relegated to a refugee camp. Once in the camp, Pau collected any English language books or magazines he could and taught himself English. From the beginning, Pau was determined to live a life of self-reliance.

There are only seventeen countries that resettle refugees and all of them use English as the native language or accommodate English speakers in a multi-cultural society. Pau decided to study English so that he would be ready to be successful if selected for resettlement.

By last November, just four months after stepping off the plane in the United States, Pau was working as a janitor at a gym. In his spare time he helped translate for arriving Burmese refugees. He also began a 3-month program at Progressive Driving School. Pau passed the commercial drivers license test, and enrolled in Progressive’s job placement service.

When asked why he wanted to drive a truck, Pau replied, “I like to drive.” He drove a dump truck at the jade mine. He added, “Since I arrived in the United States, in my mind, I’ve been thinking about my future. “For me, the only way to earn more money is to be a truck driver. My English is not good and I don’t have [an American] education.” When RefugeeOne called Pau in July to ask him to speak about his first year in the U. S., he was on a delivery trip in another state!


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