San Dar Lin

San Dar Lin

Persistence Pays Off

San Dar Lin is a 22-year-old senior at Purdue Fort Wayne. She is majoring in Human Services and her anticipated graduation date is May 2023. San always had a heart for helping people so choosing Human Services ended up being a choice that fits who she is to her core.

San had a difficult childhood due to spending most of it as a war refugee. She lived with her people, the Karenni, in a refugee camp at the border of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Thailand. Most people do not know this but the civil war in Myanmar is the longest ongoing civil war in history, having gone on for more than 70 years.

San’s family is one of the many that have been forced to endure the effects of it. She grew up in a house made of bamboo with no stove or fan with her mother, father, brother, and sister. The five of them all slept on the floor. San grew up eating lots of rice and vegetables, and whatever food her father was able to hunt and fish. They used the local river as their water supply. “My mom and dad managed really well to feed us, to make it through the whole month with just a small portion of food,” San said. One day, people from the United Nations came by to promise a better life to them in America and San’s family agreed. So, in November 2010, San and her family made their way to America and called Fort Wayne their new home.

The adjustment to America was difficult, the family did not know any English and adjusting to a new lifestyle brought challenges. “I remember when we first came to Fort Wayne, we didn’t have any US dollars,” San reflected. Catholic Charities helped to resettle the family for their first 6 months here in the states. San’s parents got help applying for jobs, eventually finding work in local factories. San and her siblings were enrolled in school and the family was able to get on Medicaid. Catholic Charities also helped to buy groceries for the family for their first month. As the eldest, San had to take on a lot of responsibility. “Most of the Asian families, it’s always the oldest daughter that have to become the second mom when the parents aren’t home,” San explained. When San started school, it was difficult as well, she frequently felt left out and like she did not belong with the other kids. In fact, San is still caring for her younger siblings. Besides focusing on her schoolwork, she finds the time to care for them and drive them to and from for all their extracurricular activities.

Going into college, San had some help through her 21st Century Scholarship. Another great asset on San’s journey has been joining the Persistence Pays Off program. The Persistence Pays Off program has helped San to learn financial management skills that are currently beneficial to her and that will be especially beneficial to her post-college. Before she joined the program, she would often splurge on things she did not need. Now she has learned how to properly budget to section things out that she needs such as food and gas. Through the program, she was also able to benefit from receiving a grocery card and gas cards. Learning how to manage her finances and receiving some financial assistance has helped her better focus on her schoolwork.

When San reflects on her life and all the challenges her parents have had to go through, she is amazed, and it is through these trials that her family was able to overcome, that she finds strength. When she feels she is about to give up, she looks to her parents as the backbone of her family and all that they have had to endure for their children, and it gives her hope. Just like her family had to “trust the process” when they started over in a new world, she “trusts the process” when it comes to whatever challenges she is currently facing. She is grateful for how far they have come. “America has changed our lives,” she said. San hopes that in the future she will be able to help refugees just like her family create a better life here in America.