A Connection to Home

“No better place to start off The Noted Project than 10 minutes away from home.”

That’s what I thought when I recently met Kaw Kaw: musician, Karen native, and refugee living in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Believe it or not, I actually met Kaw Kaw through my car insurance agent, who knows Kaw Kaw from church. In Lancaster County, everybody knows everybody through church.

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There is a small Karen refugee community in Lancaster, and Kaw Kaw was one of the first ones to arrive here seven years ago. His previous home? Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, where he lived for over two decades. I recently got the chance to sit down and speak with Kaw Kaw at his home in Elizabethtown. It was an enlightening time. I learned about his time in the refugee camp, the difficulty of moving to America, and his current life (he’s trying to learn Pro Tools, which is difficult even without the language barrier). He taught me some Karen phrases that I mostly forget.

For refugees, music is a connection to home.

After meeting with Kaw Kaw we spent time with Lu Dee and her family, who live in Lancaster City. A different connection–through our article in LNP–led us to this Karen family. They have only been living in America for two years, but their youngest son William was born here. Their daughter Mi Mi is taking viola lessons: an opportunity not available to her in the refugee camps of Thailand. She hopes to learn piano soon, which Josh was happy to help with.

For Kaw Kaw, Lu Dee, and all refugees living away from their homeland, music is a very tangible connection to the culture that they left behind. For many of them, it’s a connection that they do not want to lose. Recently, Lu Dee has been creating a written journal of her life so she can pass on those memories to her family.

The post you are reading is the kick-off post of The Noted Project blog. We leave for Thailand in a week. It’s going to be a crazy adventure, but throughout our time there, we want to make sure we remember why we are doing this. No matter where you’re from, music makes a difference in peoples’ lives. For refugees, it’s a connection to home.

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This week as you go about your daily life, think about the role music plays in your life and how it has changed you, especially in your childhood. If you have any stories about how music has played a significant role in your life, share them with us! Drop us a line at thenotedproject@gmail.com.