“We were scared and alone.”
Sangbiakthang “Sang” Zothang
Born: Chin State of Burma
Morales Group Customer Service Representative
Team Member since 2012
If the government had known about their plan to go to Malaysia, they would have blocked the Zothang family, so it remained a secret. Sangbiakthang Zothang (Sang) recalls the beginning of his family’s journey. “We were all really afraid, but our country is really bad. We didn’t feel safe and America had a lot more opportunities for their kids.” The only way out was for the family to immigrate to Malaysia as refugees and hope to not be discovered before reaching the United Nations office where they would receive a refugee card. “Some people go by themselves to Malaysia. My dad was the first to start calling his family. Most other people don’t have any vision or think about the future to come to America, but my uncle did and he made my dad, my dad was really scared. He thought he would have to come by himself to America and wouldn’t be with his family.” But it was exactly these phone conversations with his dad that led Sang’s family to leave their only home in motorcycle side cars late one night in 2003.
The mosquitos were terrible.
His memory of leaving Burma with his family is vivid. At just thirteen years old, an agent drove Sang, his mother and three sisters as far as the river, where they joined their traveling companions in a small boat that would take them to the opposite bank. Once there, they packed fifteen each to a car and drove for an hour before they were let out to start walking the rest of the night. The first destination on this journey? Bangkok. “The mosquitos were terrible”, Sang chuckles. Within twenty-four hours they were boarding a second boat from Bangkok where they traveled laying flat, shoulder to shoulder, to cross the Gulf of Thailand in hopes of passing as a one-man fishing boat. When they reached land a truck was waiting to help them complete the journey to Malaysia. For five hours they drove, with four passengers in the cab, including Sang who sat on the floor, and the rest in the truck bed. “I sat at the feet of the passenger, and if I got tired, I lifted my head up and he let me sit on his lap for about 10 minutes, then I would sit back down on the floor”, Sang remembers.
Four and half months of sharing a house with fifty other refugees.
After two years of only phone calls and days of traveling in secret, Sang and his family reunited in a small rental home in Koala Lampur, Malaysia. But they wouldn’t stay there. “Even Malaysia isn’t really safe right now because if the police arrest them (Burmese refugees) and they don’t have a refugee card they get sent back to Burma. There’s also a lot of gang violence and kidnapping.”, says Sang. So after only four and a half months of sharing a house with fifty other refugees, the Zothang family made their final trek to the US where they settled in Indianapolis among what was then only around 300 other Burmese refugees.
Although what seems like the hardest part of their journey had ended, Sang was now left to navigate the already challenging and awkward years of middle school and high school with little to no knowledge of American culture or the English language. Although much of those first years were isolating for Sang, his journey shifted when he found himself in an introductory business class and something clicked. He graduated Perry Meridian High School in 2009 and in hopes of pursuing his love for business, accepted a job at an insurance company as a translator that also paid for him to take courses at Kaplan College. In 2011, thinking there might be a better opportunity for him, Sang found himself at Morales Group.
Morales Group called me out of the blue.
He worked for a while as an interpreter for a Morales Group client and after the job ended, thought that might be the last he heard from them. “After a month, Morales Group called me out of the blue and decided to interview me as a recruiter to be on staff. I was busy, I worked hard. Then I became full-time and they gave me a raise. Now I work in client services.”
Working at Morales Group has not been what Sang expected, in the best way possible. Morales Group has given Sang the one thing he couldn’t seem to find in his previous job; purpose. “The one thing I am most happy about is that I get the chance to help my community people, to find them a job. I get to help not only my community people, but different community people. In Burma there are a lot of states, I don’t even know their dialect or language but I know that they are from Burma, and I can even help them. Right now we even have a lot of Chin employees. That’s why I never get tired. I never get tired of being able to help my people. Whenever I think about that, I know why I want to stay. I know how hard it is to get a job when you get here.”
That’s why I love my job.
As a thirteen year old boy stealing away in the night on the floor of a truck cab, Sang could never have imagined the dream his family left their home for would become his reality, or that Morales Group would be part of changing his story. “Morales Group has helped me a lot. They’ve provided everything I need. I got to be part of the company growing up, everything has changed since I started, it keeps getting better and growing and growing. That’s why I love my job.”