Found arts and crafts from school discovered when cleaning up the bedroom shared by the 4 children school aged children.
Found arts-and-crafts from school discovered when cleaning up the bedroom shared by the 4 school-aged children.


We all have seen the headlines: “50 million refugees: the largest number of refugees since WWII”. This heartbreaking human tragedy of epic proportion is unfolding right before our eyes. Yet my interest in the ethnic minorities and my photographic journey on this subject began more than 10 years ago and has evolved since.
For the last 2 years, I have been a photography instructor, photographer, and mentor at a middle school for refugee girls who have been relocated with their families to Greater Atlanta Georgia. They come from all of the hotspots in the world.
My mentee, En Kawli, now 14 years old, is from the Chin State in Myanmar. She came to the United States 3 years ago with her parents and 3 siblings. As a Christian in a predominately Buddhist country and ethnic minority, her people were persecuted, unable to secure employment, or receive formal education. They were often hungry. –Lorrie Dallek

This family’s’ 6 year journey has been circuitous and difficult. Work in the neighboring countries of India or Malaysia was the only way to earn money. At first, her parents walked from Myanmar to India and later Malaysia where they worked. En Kawli and her 3 siblings were left behind with extended family for several years. After saving enough money working illegally in construction, the 4 children were sent for. Escorted by a paid virtual stranger they followed a similar route across by-ways, the forest, and rivers evading the authorities. En Kawli was 9 years old when she left Myanmar, her youngest brother was 5. She often carried him on her back. She never complains. She just talks about how scared she was during this journey.

This was followed by another 2 and 1/2 yrs in Malaysia as the parents continued to work and save. Education was still a scarcity for this family. A 5th child was born and died traumatically during this timeframe. After lots of paperwork, loans, and vetting they are now living in a refugee community of 8,000 in Clarkston Georgia. They arrived with the clothes on their back and spoke no English.

Slowly they are finding their way. They are still very poor and live in a cramped 2 bedroom apartment, with the 4 school-aged children sharing the same bedroom. Food scarcity is still a real issue for this family. The father works the night shift in a poultry plant cleaning the equipment. The mother has a sizable vegetable garden behind the apartment complex where they live. This garden augments their food supply and provides a small stream of cash for produce sold to friends and neighbors. Additionally, the mother has been taught to sew in a refugee educational group. Their skills have progressed to the point that they now are able deliver on contract labor jobs and earn a percentage on all goods completed.

Despite being impoverished, they are very happy and grateful to be in the USA. They are working hard, attending school, and everyone is learning English. They have the same hopes and dreams that generations before them have had – for their family to be safe, fed, and educated. They also talk about buying a home at some time in the near future.

This story is evolving with the intention of capturing the lives of this refugee family as they adjust and immerse into American society. I feel that at this time of heated debate on the status of refugees in the USA, a project such as this is more important than ever. Through this photo documentary I am able to depict a refugee family that is doing better every day and living the American dream.   The same dream that has helped to shape this country for over the past 50 years.

Bio: “I belong out amongst the people as an observer, participant and recorder of everyday life. Whether working home or abroad my goal is to always connect with people and capture a piece of their world and what they are feeling, As such, I am repeatedly reminded the we are all a part of the “Family of Man” – humans with the same needs, hopes and desires.

Lorrie has been photographing for over 30 years. She is a graduate of the Creative Circus, Image Program in Atlanta. Her work has spanned commercial, fine art and Not-for-profit organizations. She also has several books published.





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