Last week, Ruth Chhuani joined Beautiful Day as our Sales Consultant. She has worked for us before, and her earlier success with us led her to start her own business. You may have seen Ruth, or even met her at a local farmer’s market.
Ruth worked for us before, and her early success selling Providence Granola led her to start her own business, a women's apparel shop. She recently sold that business and we're very glad to have her return to Beautiful Day in a more robust role. We thought you'd like to get to know Ruth a little more:
She grew up in the market town of Kalay, in the Myittha River valley of Burma, about 75 miles from the border with India. She graduated high school in 1994 and then Kalay University, with a degree in zoology. Here she is in 2004 at college graduation. That's her husband, Thanga, also a Kalay graduate. Ruth wanted to become a tour guide, as she says, “I love talking, and especially sharing with people about my country.”
She worked with her mom in the family’s successful import-export business, travelling to China to purchase women’s apparel, a 1500-mile round trip, and then crossing back through Burma to sell her wares in India, another 500 miles. To earn enough commission, she made the trip 4 times a year, for three months at a time. Of those travels, she said the most dangerous part was crossing through her neighboring Chin state, where there was fighting between the government and Chin rebels. “The rebels had to fight the government, but it was hard to have a normal life.”
She fled Burma in 2007 because the government had plans to arrest her husband. He’d been taken from their church with a group of other Chin men and boys, to serve as porters for the military. As a leader of their group, when he objected to the forced march and beating of a 12 year-old boy, he became a target. Rather than face certain death, he “risked his life by fleeing,” says Ruth. Rather than face certain death, he “risked his life by fleeing,” says Ruth. He was able to get word to her and their then 18 month-old baby.
The young family fled together through the forests to the capital, Yangon, and then had to risk escape with a human trafficker to make it through Thailand to Malaysia. The last day of the journey they rode standing, packed in a freezer truck. After almost 2,000 miles of treacherous travel, they arrived in Kuala Lumpur, and sought refuge at a church they'd heard would help.
They lived two years in Malaysia, undocumented, hiding whenever there was word of a "mopping operation" by the police and immigration officials. Then word came from the UNHCR that Ruth and her husband, by then expecting their second baby, were eligible for resettlement. From among several countries, they chose the US because they thought with our “multiple colors” it would be good for them, and besides, in the US they “could become full citizens and be free.” Citizenship is not always an option in other countries.
They arrived “on December 17, 2009, in a snowstorm,” and Ruth thought, “We are in the wrong place!” But a church group arrived that weekend bringing winter clothes and more food. Ruth and her family are still friends with many in that church community.
Ruth met Keith Cooper when she registered for ESOL class, and after her children started school, Keith suggested she come and work for the Providence Granola Project. She spent a year learning sales, working the PGP booth at farmers’ markets. She says she learned customer services skills, how to run a business in the US. Ruth's dream is to start her own restaurant and run it together with her husband.
Just over a week ago, Ruth did become a US citizen. She hopes to send her children to college.
In the meantime, she is fine-tuning her sales skills. If you know a business that would like to sell Providence granola, please let us know. Ruth will be right over!