The Journey Here delves into the behind-the-scenes work of advocacy

This SFU Surrey podcast celebrates local changemakers

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Collage with portrait photo of Kue, a Karen woman, on the left and an illustration of SFU Surrey campus on the right
Kue K’nyawmupoe shares her lived experiences as a refugee. PHOTO: Courtesy of The Journey Here

By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

Hosted by Steve Dooley, the executive director of SFU’s Surrey campus, The Journey Here is “a podcast that profiles the stories of community builders from all walks of life.” From students sparking social change to professors igniting grassroots leadership, Dooley’s interviewees share whow each of their stories has impacted their lives and work.

What drew me to The Journey Here was the in-depth life stories of its guests. Of the eight episodes that have been released so far, episode two resonated with me most. In it, Kue K’nyawmupoe describes her upbringing in a refugee camp in Thailand and what it was like moving to Canada.

At the beginning of the episode, K’nyawmupoe explains how in Thailand, her family survived by gathering natural resources. “You had to make everything with your hands,” she said. It came as a culture shock when, in Canada, “you wake up and you go to the kitchen. You turn the knob on and you get a fire.”

Her family felt unsure about moving at first, especially since they didn’t know how they would adapt to living in a new place. But eventually, after encouragement from their peers in the camp, K’nyawmupoe’s mom applied for refugee status. 

Before arriving in Canada at 15 years old, her family had only two days to familarize themselves with Canada before moving. Considering they’d be spending the rest of their lives abroad, I can imagine how stressed they must have felt during this time — saying goodbye to the community they’ve lived with for years is difficult in itself. 

In December 2019, K’nyawmupoe revisited her cousins and uncles who were still living in the refugee camp. She also wanted to give back to her mom’s hometown. I found it inspiring that K’nyawmupoe wanted to stay connected to her roots after living in Canada for so long. 

But during her visit, she often had to explain the reality of living in Canada. “It’s funny. When they see you, they think just because you come back from a country like Canada or USA, you have money and you have resources, but what they don’t understand is that you really have to work hard,” said K’nyawmupoe

Contrary to her family’s belief that life in Canada was perfect, they struggled to pay the bills when they first arrived. K’nyawmupoe’s mom worked long hours in order to pay their rent. 

“Where I get resilience from is my mom. She’s a strong woman,” said K’nyawmupoe.

Wanting to pay it forward, K’nyawmupoe became a research assistant on a project about recent refugees. Since she experienced what it was like as a refugee, she felt a stronger connection to the research participants. Her work demonstrates the importance of a support network.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me, because I realized how important it is to receive the services and resources available in the community,” said K’nyawmupoe.

The Journey Here can be streamed on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.