Day Reh brought family to refugee camp, then to U.S. for brighter futures |


Day Reh, received his U.S. citizenship on Aug. 15, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Day Reh was a top-notch cook at his Thailand refugee camp, growing rice and vegetables to serve to kids.

His granddaughter Ei Mei, now 30, remembers getting mad when she had to pack her own school lunch. She wanted to eat Day’s food, which she described as “really delicious.”

Day died April 26 at his Waterloo home from COVID-19 complications. He was 85, a father of two daughters and a son.

He brought his family to Thailand from nearby Myanmar, still called by its former name Burma by some natives. Mei said the family fled when government officials began fighting and killing people, and burning the villages where people lived.

“We were scared, and we moved to Thailand to stay safe,” Mei said.

They stayed at the camp for nearly 16 years. The family received food donations from camp officials. They couldn’t leave the camp.

“We lived there, and we worked hard, and you can’t go out,” Mei said.

Myanmar gained international attention for recent ethnic cleansing efforts that target Rohingya Muslims, according to organization Human Rights Watch. The United Nations called for top military officials to be investigated and punished for alleged war crimes and other actions.

Day received refugee recognition from the United Nations in 2011, moving from Thailand to the United States. They watched other camp residents head to European countries, Canada or other parts of America. The family did not speak English well. They didn’t have much money. But their futures felt brighter than ever in their new home.

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