Hundreds of Eastern Iowa Burmese celebrate Karen New Year - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hundreds of eastern Iowa Burmese celebrate Karen New Year

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Hundreds gathered Sunday in Evansdale to celebrate the Karen New Year.

This year, it's the year 2753 on the Karen calendar.  The calendar began in 739 BC, when the Karen people believed their ancestors arrived to the land which is now called Myanmar in Southeast Asia.

Dphoe Ei moved to Waterloo three and a half years ago from Chicago, but before then, he was a refugee in Thailand.

He says he moved here for a job opportunity.

"Because of the job offer from Tyson's, it's really good and beneficial and I appreciate the help. Also with the local people they're willing to see the different people accepting the new refugees," said Ei.

Ei isn't the only refugee in Waterloo. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the Karen New Year on Sunday, proving just how big the Burmese culture is in the area.

Most of these people have come to Iowa for better job opportunities and to escape violence in their home country.

"If people don't share the same religions or political views then those people are just simply eliminated off the streets. They line people up and shoot people if they are not from the right culture at that time," said Angie Graham, friend of the Burmese community.

Graham says Burma, now known as Myanmar, is very dangerous. She says in Waterloo, these people get an opportunity to have a better life.

"They now can dare to dream. To think about having employment because for many years, there was not employment for them or they worked in sweat shops. So they are really excited to have those opportunities to work and start families," said Graham.

It's estimated about 1200 Burmese live in the Cedar Valley.


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