Burmese refugee promoted at Swift & Co.
WORTHINGTON -- Napoleon Say was 2-years-old when his mother was freed by a Burma soldier. "In 1990, we went to the Meela refugee camp," Say said. "It was a long wait -- a really long wait. We hoped the government would call us to come to the Unit...
WORTHINGTON -- Napoleon Say was 2-years-old when his mother was freed by a Burma soldier.
"In 1990, we went to the Meela refugee camp," Say said. "It was a long wait -- a really long wait. We hoped the government would call us to come to the United States. I kept praying to God that it would happen."
After spending 18 years in the refugee camp, Say, his mother and sister made their way to the United States. They arrived in St. Paul in 2007.
Say was one of only three Burmese who came to Worthington in November 2007 to work at JBS Swift & Co.
"The first time I came, I felt a little uncomfortable here, but later, I liked living here because the situation is very good because all of the employees and all of the people who live in Worthington are very nice," Say said at Saturday's community welcome event.
Now, there are 80 people from Burma working at JBS Swift. Last week, Say was promoted from a production worker to a trainer at the pork processing plant.
"I started learning English when I was 7 in the refugee camp," Say said. "A lot of my people do not understand English. As a trainer, I teach them the company policies and rules."
Say and the other new refugees are Karen, one of the many ethnic groups of Burma, a country in Southeast Asia between Bangladesh and Thailand.
The country of Burma is governed by a strict military regime. Human rights abuse has been reported by many human rights organizations. Forced labor, human trafficking and child labor are common. The human rights abuse is the reason Burmese people come to the U.S.
Currently in Minnesota, there are about 1,200 Burmese refugees. They began arriving in 1993.
When Say is not working at JBS Swift, he spends much of his free time helping the new Karen refugees adjust to life in Worthington.
"I help a lot of families find places to live," Say said. "A lot of these people I knew before from the refugee camp."
This summer, Say and other Karen people plan to have a team in the Worthington Soccer League.
"I feel very happy that I came here to stay as the first group," Say said about Worthington. "I think more Karen people will come to live here because it is a great place."