It was 1984 when Ni Ta, now 75, was displaced by the civil war in Burma, which was renamed Myanmar, and ended up in a refugee camp on the Thailand border with her family.
The area she had come from was very poor. Ni Ta said it was hard for people to find work or even food. The civil war had made it impossible for her and her family to continue living there.
She was a schoolteacher while living in her Karen – an area and ethnicity in Burma – village. She used those skills to teach the children in the Mae La refugee camp and later to work for the International Organization for Migration in 2006. It was there she began learning to speak English. Life in the refugee camp was not easy and there was no hope of getting documentation from the Thailand government to work there. In 2000 her husband died, leaving Ni Ta with four children. With so few opportunities for the future, she and her family decided to immigrate to the United States. One of her children moved to California; the other three came to Fort Wayne.
In 2008 Ni Ta came to America. She spent a year living in San Diego with her daughter before moving to Fort Wayne. It was while she was still in California that she began to study for the exam to become a U.S. citizen. Through a class with Catholic Charities she was first given the 100 questions she had to know for the citizenship test. Once she moved to Fort Wayne she began to take lessons at the YWCA in citizenship training and an English as a second language class.
Ni Ta eventually took the test and passed. She took the oath in the federal court in South Bend. As Ni Ta talked about getting her citizenship she held up a small U.S. flag. It was given to her during the citizenship ceremony.
“It is very precious to me, because we had the love from the government and all the citizens, and they welcomed us warmly, and I thank them so much,” Ni Ta said.
Having arrived when she was 68 she is now retired and living with her daughter and son. She likes living in the United States and enjoys being retired. Now she only works Sundays with her Burmese Community Church, which is Karen Christian.
Ni Ta's daughter and family came to Fort Wayne in 2007. When Ni Ta joined them her granddaughter, who does not speak Karen, struggled with understanding her grandmother.
“My granddaughter would say 'Grandma I don't understand your English,'” Ni Ta said.
Now in 2014 Ni Ta is a new U.S. citizen and her English is very good.