UE Student from Burma to Appear in CBS Special About Refugees


When Hlawn Kip Tlem arrived in the United States in 2008, the teenager from Burma knew only a few words of English and had never seen a slice of pizza or a high-school class schedule. Just three years later, she graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, earned a full-tuition Lilly Endowment scholarship, and enrolled as a civil engineering major at the University of Evansville.

Tlem will share her story on “Refugee Resettlement: Faith Communities Making a Difference,” a CBS television special about refugees who settle in the United States and the organizations that help them adjust to a new life.

The half-hour program will premiere on Sunday, September 25, and will air locally in Evansville on CBS44 at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, October 2. (To check local air times for other CBS affiliates, click here). After its premiere, “Refugee Resettlement: Faith Communities Making a Difference” will also be available for viewing online here.

Tlem belongs to the Chin ethnic minority group in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma, which is ruled by a military government. Organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have documented and condemned widespread abuses of the Chin people — including forced labor, arbitrary arrests and detainment, and torture — by the Burmese military.

Tlem and her family fled to Malaysia, where they applied for and were granted refugee status by the United Nations. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that in 2010 more than 43 million people were forcibly displaced by conflicts. Those fleeing persecution can apply to live elsewhere in the world, but must undergo an extensive screening process. Only one-half of one percent of those who apply will be resettled in a new country.

The United States currently admits 70,000 refugees each year. Many, including Tlem and her family, are assisted by faith-based humanitarian agencies such as the Church World Service. When Tlem arrived in Indianapolis, Exodus — a nonprofit refugee resettlement organization affiliated with CWS — helped her family secure housing, food, clothing, and other basic needs.

This summer, CWS leaders invited Tlem to speak at the organization’s 65th anniversary celebration in New York.

“I only knew I would be there to give a brief speech. Then I found out CBS wanted to interview me about the challenges I faced as a refugee, how difficult it was to adjust, and how I got involved with my community,” said Tlem. “At the time, I didn’t realize it would be nationwide. I was nervous but excited. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Refugee Resettlement: Faith Communities Making a Difference” also features leaders from the Church World Service and the United Nations, volunteers from interfaith co-sponsorship teams, and refugees from Eritrea and Somalia.

Source: Evansville.edu


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