Pyoyo Johdee was born and raised in a refugee camp in northern Thailand.
He knew very little of the world other than what he saw in the enclosed camp he and his family had to live in for years after escaping the atrocities of Myanmar.
On July 14, 2016, Johdee was able to move to Canada, settling in the Qualicum Beach area with his father Ahdee, mother Tapautmu, grandmother Kyinthaung, brothers Myintoo and Hlanaingoo, sister Ehnyawpaw and cousin Pyint Thu Zar.
It was a major transition that Johdee, to this day, is still adjusting to. He is extremely grateful for the opportunity to start anew and build a life devoid of all the trouble and despair he experienced with his family at refugee camp.
On April 15, 2021, Johdee received another milestone, one that has lifted his spirits tenfold when he took part in a life-changing virtual ceremony that officially made him a citizen of Canada.
“I am very, very happy,” said Johdee. “I am the first one in my family to become a Canadian citizen and I am so excited about it.”
This milestone, the 19-year-old says, has made him feel even more liberated from his gloomy past. He now eagerly looks forward to the opportunities he plans to pursue in his life.
“I grew up my whole life in a refugee camp and I didn’t know anything,” said Johdee. “This is important to me to become a Canadian citizen. Now I can travel and do a lot of things. I have never been anwhere else and I would like to see a lot of places. I can do many, many things and travel around in Canada. I have a lot of plans for myself.”
Johdee, who graduated from Kwalikum Secondary, is currently in the automotive service program at Vancouver Island University, on a full scholarship. He is the first recipient of the Alfred Heringa Bursary for new Canadians. He is also has part-time employment at Arrowsmith Automotive, where he drew inspiration to become a mechanic.
“When I started work there, I couldn’t speak English,” said Johdee. “All I did was help clean up the shop. Then they teach me to do mechanic stuff and I became good at it. So I decided to go to VIU to take an automotive course.”
The rest of the Johdee’s family is still working toward their Canadian citizenship.
Johdee said he is grateful to the community and individuals who gave him and his family a better life.
“I want to say thank you to all the people from Qualicum Beach and Parksville and (the) credit union that helped me when I first came to Canada,” he said. “I also appreciate all the help they have given us to become a good family in Qualicum Beach.”
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