Appleton schools prepare for Afghan refugees. Here is a woman’s story

APPLETON – Chia Vang was 15 years old when she moved to Appleton. It was the summer of 1989, and she could not believe how green the grass was or how nicely the streets were paved.

Compared to the refugee camps in Thailand she had lived in for the previous six years, these seeming everyday signs of life and order seemed shockingly misplaced to her.

Vang, the youngest daughter of seven children, suddenly found herself calling Appleton home. One of her older brothers invited Vang to stay with her family of seven in the city, despite the cramped neighborhoods. In his two-bedroom, one-bathroom home, her brother and his family slept in one room, she and her mother shared the other, and her three other brothers slept in the living room.

As a teenager, the first few years were challenging.

She did not speak the same language, did not eat the same food or wear the same clothes as the other students at her school. She had also spent much of her childhood in a refugee camp, something few of her classmates could identify with.

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