From refugee camp to home owners

FamilyHouseThirteen years of life in refugee camps didn’t darken the dream of home ownership for Julie and Peter Thao. Now that dream is a reality.

“The life there is very difficult,” Julie Thao says of her years in Thailand, which became the family’s home after an escape from Laos.

“We didn’t have enough food to eat, we were starving and there were no space. It was just so difficult living there.”

When Julie and her family arrived in Sacramento, they continued to dream about home ownership, even when they didn’t have much reason to believe their dreams would come true. Despite their difficulties, the family’s faith persevered.

And when the Thaos learned about Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit ecumenical Christian ministry that helps build and renovate housing for people in need, the dreams began to jell into reality.

“Since I was born, I never had my own house,” Julie Thao says.“But now, I have a house.”

The new home has brought incredible improvements in the quality of life for the family, improvements that would have been unimaginable in Thailand. Julie and Peter are proud of their home. And their children love it. They use to all sleep together in one room, but with the new house, there is space for everyone.

Eldest daughter Mai Yang never had the privacy that she wanted. She slept with her grandparents in one room in the family’s old house.

“Now that I have my own room,” Mai Yang says. “I can do whatever I want. I can clean my room and it would be clean. But with my old house, no matter how much I clean it, it’ll always look dirty.”

Julie and her family are happy and thankful for everything and everyone who helped make their dream come true.

“Oh, it feels really good to finally have a house that has nice air condition and smells good!” Julie Thao says.

Alisa Xiong

About Alisa Xiong
Ms. Xiong is an on-camera interviewer for the Hmong Report on Crossings TV, and is continuing her studies at California State University, Sacramento. Her passions are photography and community service, and she is uniquely interested in telling stories about the Hmong community. Her volunteer service includes assisting My Sister’s House, which provides shelter to women escaping violence.


  1. Burt Clemons says

    I felt like I was right there with them in reading your article. I guess it’s because I have heard so much about the struggles your people gone through. I know how they gave up their homeland because they helped the United States fight in the Vietnam War. Americans can only imagine what some of your people have endure, and yet, as you so clearly pointed out in your article, you people continue to dream and those dreams do come true. Living with relatives, as you clearly discussed, can be trying, but things do get better. Thanks Alisa for sharing such a wonderful story, and how the American Dream still is achievable.

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