American dream: Photos of Burmese refugees in Malaysia hoping to enter US with the items they love

'Everywhere I go I will bring my Bible, nothing else'

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A teddy bear. A Bible. A photo of a beloved mother who died years ago. 

Refugees live for years out of suitcases in poverty, many envisioning their future in America. They own very little and will bring even less, but everyone has at least one precious item that they intend to bring to the place they call their “fatherland.” 

“I will bring my sketch pad,” a 13-year-old refugee said as she showed off one of her favourite drawings, of a horse and rider. “I want to be a doctor, and an artist.” 

A 13-year-old Burmese Christian refugee explains one of her favorite drawings (Joshua Paul/AP)

The Associated Press interviewed several Christian refugees from Burma, currently living in Malaysia with hopes of making it to the United States, and asked them about the first item they'd take with them. AP is identifying them by single names only out of concern for their security. 

For 10-year-old Sarah, it's a teddy bear, one of four in her collection. “I'd like to take them all,” she said. “This is my favourite bear. This is the bear I would take.” 


A 16-year-old Burmese Christian refugee holds her mathematics book (Joshua Paul/AP)

The priority for a 16-year-old refugee is a math book. “My ambition is to be an engineer,” she explains. 

“As refugees we have nothing,” said Tin, who is waiting for resettlement with her husband and five children. “But everywhere I go I will bring my Bible, nothing else.”