Before coming to Rossland, life was very different for the Burmese San-Latt family. Aung Ko Ko Latt, Lun Lun San and their son Samuel were refugees living in Malaysia; they weren’t allowed to work legally, go to school or receive any benefits, though being with friends and family made it easier.
There are multiple programs through Immigration Canada that help refugees. One of them is the Blended Visa Officer Referral program. In this program, refugees go through interviews and medical examinations, and eventually are allowed admission into Canada. The federal government grants a fixed sum to the family only for their first six months. Our private sponsor, West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR), helped the San-Latt family move in by covering some of the associated costs. Formed in 2011, WKFoR is a volunteer organization in Rossland with the goal of sponsoring refugee families to allow them to move to Canada.
Through fundraisers — such as chocolate and wine tastings, raffles and house concerts — the Rossland Interact Club managed to raise $5000 with the help of the community to support the San-Latt family’s arrival. They were able to move here on December 12 of last year. Settling into a region that is much colder in comparison to their hometown, they had to learn to use firewood, shovel snow and travel on icy roads. Shortly after their arrival, on March 17 of this year they welcomed their second son, Michael David, into the world, who was born a Canadian citizen.
On November 17, Interact hosted a potluck at the Miners’ Hall and invited all Interact and Rotary families to share a casual evening with the San-Latt family. That night, we met our goal of having an inter-generational connection, and built a relationship with the San-Latts that can only grow. We asked them a few questions on how they were doing here and what they like about their new home. They said that they are doing well and that their kids love Rossland and its snow. It was their first time seeing it when they moved here last December, and despite finding it to be very cold, they enjoy it in small amounts. Their favourite part about Rossland is meeting new friends and the “family to family” connection.
Interact is looking forward to maintaining a relationship with the San-Latt family, and hopes that their second winter in Rossland is filled with the “family to family” connection that is unique to our town.
Maggie Chan is a member of the Rossland Interact club.