Learning has been a fight for Htay Win all his life. At 38 years old his struggle continues as he learns a new language and a new way of living in PEI.
Htay Win is from a small village in Burma. His ethnic group is called Karen. There has been civil war in his country for decades and more than one million Karen people have been displaced since 1996.
As a child Htay Win wasn't allowed to go to school until he was eight. He remembers when he got his first piece of paper and a quarter piece of a pencil. "I loved these things very much."
In 1982, the army captured Karen men and boys and forced them to work as slaves. Htay Win left home to live in a safe Karen Centre. For seven years he had no contact with his parents.
Htay Win was 19 when he completed grade 10. He then went to the Karen teacher training college. "I thought often of quitting" he said, "but I kept reminding myself that I had my health and enough food so I stayed and finished." He taught for the next three years.
Htay Win was 22, married and a father when the Burmese army took over the centre. Everyone fled to Thailand.
Htay Win lived in a refugee camp for 13 years. He took every training opportunity that came his way. As a result, he found work as a lab technician, a teacher, a management trainer and a school principal. Although he was successful, he saw no future for his 6 children. He said "everyone living there was like a bird in a cage or a patient on oxygen. What if the oxygen was taken away?" There was no freedom and no future. So he applied to the United Nations to come to Canada.
Htay Win and his family have been in PEI just over a year. He says learning has been very difficult because everything is new. He has spent the last year learning English and is working on his GED. He has learned that in Canada you need a Grade 12 education to continue learning. He sees learning as a job "you have to do it even if it is difficult. We must learn all the time."