Every four years, America turns its attention to Ohio. And for good reason. The Midwestern flyover state has voted for the winning presidential candidate in 29 of the last 31 presidential elections. That’s from 1896 on.
In the days before COVID-19, journalists from six news outlets from across the state came together to give local national and global audiences some advanced insights into our state’s electoral magic, straight from the people who know it best — Ohioans. All kinds.
They learned how to use the storygathering tool A Picture’s Worth and agreed to make the resulting content free and open for all to use, with credit to original sources, of course. This audio story series, Ohio Values, is intentionally not political, although you will hear some stories that involve political topics and issues. Instead, we made an intentional choice to focus on our people, sharing photographs and stories about what they value the most, whether they’re heading into a voting booth or weathering a pandemic.
Hsa Win is a 20-year-old who advocates for leadership in his community. His family is Karen, an ethnic group from Myanmar that was forced to flee to refugee camps in Thailand, where they lived until he came to the United States. As a newly legalized American citizen, he values community and is active in providing platforms for Karen Youth. In addition to being an advocate for his community, Hsa dreams big for his future. He wants to one day run for government and emphasizes why education and voting are so important to him. In his interview, he shares a picture of him and his mother (who shares the same name). In the image, they are newly arrived to the U.S. He doesn’t remember where they were going, but he recognizes that he is at the threshold of a new world and new opportunities.
Below is a partial transcript from Josy Jones’s interview with Hsa.
I was born in a Thailand refugee camp. I came to America in 2011. I was the first person, from graduating high school and going to college, the first person in my family.
In this picture, I think, you know, this is when we first arrived in the United States. I think we’re about to go to the park. Yeah. It’s kind of cold, like November or December. To see this picture in our house and to know, like when I look, sometimes when I look at my old house, the picture brings back so many memories. The culture and other things they like. It is different. Like when you look at it, when I first arrived in America, I can see like, you know, a couch and bad refrigerator, stove table, you know, is this like a rich house? It’s sealing a roof. Nobody’s sleep, you know. Compared to a refugee camp, America, it’s totally different.
It represents a new world because we had come to America. It’s like a different word. Coming to come into this country, you know, without any knowledge about the culture and the language, was very challenging for us. I wish that — back in my refugee camp, I had to get education if I came to America. I wish I learned more about American culture and the language.
I just started a new club for the youth, right? We call this a current youth condition club. I want to make sure that I advocated for my community, also wanting [to do more] for that community service. We help out all the communities. What I want them to do is also give a leadership opportunity where they can gain more opportunity. It’d be in a fusion of… a brighter person who knows a lot of the stuff.
It’s made me a better person. I want to accomplish what I want to accomplish. Any goal that I want.
Many immigrants, children like myself, you know, it is hard for me to continue my education if I didn’t have much money. I’m pretty sure that my parents are not going to pay for my education. You know, it’s up to me. It is up to me to… continue my education. Like I just forget about my goal and my dreams, you know. Do you like high school? They told me, [have a] good GPA, academic skill, good attendance. You know, I want to win scholarships. I want to focus on my education. But it’s very expensive, you know… like poverty, like my mom, my family are not making much money, you know. That’s the only person who also has a job. Like I’m concerned by, you know, I don’t want you to let go. I tried to avoid student loans. So this kind of stuff, it is not a good idea to take a loan out. This one, we’d like to apply for a job and to have a scholarship.
This is my first time to vote. I want to make sure they know. They know I take advantage of voting, use my voice. And like, when we look at a history of voting, we have so many leaders that who sacrificed their lives and fought for equal rights.