Blog  /  Economic Development Program  /  One Stitch at a Time

One Stitch at a Time

Posted on July 26th, 2012.
The world of a refugee seems unfathomable to most and dumbfounding to the rest, yet, refugees prove every day that their 
resilience and strength of will are an unstoppable force that propels their lives from the chaos of abandoning their 
ancestral homes to the astounding successes they and their children find in America. Refugees from Myanmar are the silent 
sufferers of one of the harshest government crackdowns in recent history. Many of the refugees have spent close to a decade 
in refugee camps in Thailand. Refugee camps are among the most challenging places to reside in the world because many 
people are confined to small spaces in a strange land as they wait, hoping, for a new country to adopt them. They have 
married in camps. They have had children in camps. Many of their children have never known anything but the camps. Despite 
these challenges, many in the Burmese community come to America with hope for the future and joy at the opportunity to 
rebuild their lives.

Zau and Ja holding up their latest creation

Zau Nan and Ja Aung came to this country with their two sons on March 23rd, 2011. They come from the Kachin region of 
Myanmar, near the Thai border. Zau Nan was forced to abandon his family and flee the country due to governmental pressure. 
His wife, Ja, along with their two children, followed after two agonizing years away from her husband. They lived in 
Malaysia until they were finally granted refuge in the United States. Walking through the pallid halls of Los Angeles 
International Airport, the four of them could have passed for any average family, but the hardship-born determination 
within each would show through in the months to come. Both of Zau and Ja’s sons have received praise for their hard work 
and respect in school, while their parents displayed the same traits in pursuing multiple jobs to support the family.
The new sewing machines for Zau and Ja’s business.
Ja and Zau have struggled to learn English, but have made steady progress. The couple joined the Individual Development 
Account (IDA) program on May 11th, 2011, just a few months after entering the country. With help from the Alliance for 
African Assistance, Ja was able to complete contract work for a store with an African woman. After her business partner 
moved away, Ja continued the business. She recently purchased two sewing machines and a car to build her business. She 
hopes to create a design enterprise, a dream she has had since she began working with clothes in the 8th grade. In addition 
to sewing, Ja works as a housekeeper and studies advanced sewing at the West City School. She is extremely humble about her 
work, but the beautiful colors and craftsmanship show the true nature of her talents. The couple continues to build towards 
their dream and is hopeful of the future.
Zau with the new car he and his wife bought for their business with the help of the IDA program.