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Yesterday you shared a meal with your family. You gathered everyone together for a family photo. That was the last family photo you would ever take.

Today, you’re on the run.

Your family is forced to flee. By boat, by car, by foot, by any means necessary. Everyone is set on a different path with an unknown future. 

And suddenly your family tree has now been scattered across 3 continents, 4 countries, and 5 cities.

The only thing you carry is that photo – the last family photo you would ever take.

My story with the Rohingya goes back to 2015 when I was living in Thailand. The Rohingya people are known to be one of the most persecuted people in the world. Many have been forced to separate from their loved ones as they flee the violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. In 2015, a group of Rohingya women and children took a boat from Myanmar to Malaysia in hopes to reunite with their fathers, husbands, and brothers who had fled earlier. They never reunited with them. Instead, they ended up in the jungles of Thailand and were taken to a shelter near my house. 

That’s where I met them. 

They had a mysterious past and an unknown future. Their resilience inspired me. They started to share their stories – and I was welcomed into the Rohingya family.

My time in Thailand came to an end when I decided to go to university in the States. I said goodbye forever to my Rohingya friends –  with such an unknown future, there was no way I would ever see them again.

One year later, I received a phone call. 

One of the families was resettled in the States. I hopped on the first plane I could find and reunited with them.

 That’s when Rohingya Reunions began.

I started tracking down and visiting the other families that were resettled in the States. Every weekend, I was off on another Rohingya Reunion. Then I ventured back to Asia to find their lost family members.

Then the genocide hit in August 2017, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to seek refuge in Kutupalong, Bangladesh – the world’s largest refugee camp. 

I went to Bangladesh to find my friends’ family members. I have been piecing together Rohingya family trees all over the world – and still continue to do so.

Then the genocide hit in August 2017, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to seek refuge in Kutupalong, Bangladesh – the world’s largest refugee camp. 

I went to Bangladesh to find my friends’ family members. I bring photos of their family members from the US and in return, I take their photos to bring back to their family. I have been piecing together Rohingya family trees all over the world – and still continue to do so. 

As long as I have a passport in hand, I plan to continue tracing Rohingya family trees across the world and share stories of their resilience, love, and power of family.

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