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‘The U.S. saved my life’: Kansas City area refugee can now give back amid COVID-19

Ceu Lian fled war in Myanmar and escaped to a refugee camp in Malaysia. More than 10 years later, he and his wife and child arrived in Kansas City, Kansas, in December. He is now sewing masks at Rightfully Sewn. JILL TOYOSHIBA

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Feature in the Kansas City Star

Ceu Lian walked for hours through a Myanmar forest, moving only at night, staying undetected by government soldiers who might jail him or worse, torture him.

He believed his life depended on his escape from this war-torn country, formerly known as Burma. But it would be more than a decade later before Lian would feel completely safe as a refugee living in Kansas City, Kansas.

“I wanted to get a better life,” said Lian, who arrived here in December. He is grateful to the United States, he says, and happy to help out his new home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Taught to sew as as child, Lian is now making protective masks for health care workers with Rightfully Sewn, a local group that trains and employs immigrants as they settle in the Kansas City area.

Lian, 33, is Chin — one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. He grew up poor in a small mountain village. His childhood dream, he said, was “to get an education and to become a teacher for my village.” It would never happen.

“When we were young we didn’t get good education,” Lian told The Star during a remote interview with the help of a translator provided by Catholic Charities, which worked with the United Nations to sponsor Lian’s trip to the U.S.


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