As published in The Border Watch.
Written by Katie Jackson.
Photo: Life-changing: Karen refugee Klo Moo has made Mount Gambier his new home and is contributing to the community, becoming one of our city’s many small business operators.
After spending more than 20 years of his life in a Thai refugee camp, Karen refugee Klo Moo has built a new life in Mount Gambier.
Mr Moo was born in the refugee camp after his parents fled persecution in Myanmar (formerly Burma) over 30 years ago.
He was eventually resettled in Melbourne 11 years ago and spent time living between there and Geelong.
“I was so grateful to be welcomed into Australia,” Mr Moo said, speaking to The Border Watch to mark National Refugee Week.
“It is much safer and there are so many opportunities living in a great country like this.
“I had never known a life outside of a camp, so Australia is such a big change for me.”
Although there were limited education and other prospects living in refugee camps, Mr Moo still had ambitions of making a better life for himself.
“I always wanted to own a business, but obviously did not have the chance to do it before coming to Australia,” he said.
“Once I was here I decided I wanted to open an Asian grocery store to share my culture with others.”
Looking for the perfect place to start his business, Mr Moo found out about Mount Gambier from friends living here and knew it was meant to be.
“It is much more relaxed living in the country than it is in the city,” he said.
“Mount Gambier is such a welcoming community and I was sure I could start my business here.”
Mr Moo is one of over 400 refugees from Myanmar in addition to another 200 Congolese, Afghani and Syrian people settled in the South East.
Many of these new settlers have gone on to open their own businesses and give back to the community in other ways.
With the closure of some stores in Mount Gambier, Mr Moo said he felt lucky to contribute to the region and sustain a business.
“I am just trying to do my part for the community that has been so welcoming to me,” he said.
“I do not know any Burmese people who are not willing to work hard for their families and their home.
“There are many people working in farming or forestry and they are all very grateful to be here.”
Mr Moo opened his store By Grace at 46 Gray Street earlier this year and is overwhelmed by the support he has received.
“My customers are mostly people from Burma or other Asian countries who want a taste of home,” Mr Moo said.
“But I would love for any Aussie people in the community to try our food.
“It would be great to share our culture with others so hopefully they can learn how to make Asian dishes.”