Nao Kabashima has been serving KOSD as Executive Director since October 2011. She is originally from Fukuoka, Japan and first came to the U.S. as a graduate student. Initially, she started to work in the refugee resettlement field as an intern for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) San Jose office in 2006. After she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education and her Master’s degree in Political Science, she moved to San Diego in 2008 and began volunteering for Jewish Family Service, working specifically with refugees from Burma. In August 2009, she co-founded the Karen Organization of San Diego to meet the urgent needs of refugees from Burma, serving as one of the organization’s board members until September of 2011. She also served as the Chair of the San Diego Refugee Forum in 2012-2013, organizing with the community to exchange information and advocate on issues of concern to those people displaced by war and violent conflict who now reside in San Diego.
She especially loves the beautiful culture, languages, and personalities that people from Burma have. One of her favorite parts about working at KOSD is that the office resounds with “lots of laughter all the time.”
Lar Ka Paw
Community Program Manager
Lar Ka Paw began working as a Case Manager for the Karen Organization of San Diego in November 2011. She was born in Burma, and grew up surrounded by her home country’s beautiful mountains and vast farm fields. In 1988, Lar moved to Thailand and taught both Karen and Karenni in refugee camps for over 20 years. In addition to teaching, Lar was also a principal, trainer and coordinator, working with the Karenni Women’s Study Program (KnWSP) through Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE). She came to the U.S. to resettle in San Diego in June 2010. In November 2010, Lar began to work with Jewish Family Service for its Family Strengthening Program as a trainer, giving Burmese community members the tools to orient themselves to U.S. culture. She is “so happy working with people,” she says. “I am happy [to] help community members and also I learn from them too. KOSD is the best workplace for me.”
Hsit Hsa Paw
Hsit Hsa Paw joined the KOSD staff as a Case Worker in July 2012. She was born in Burma’s Karen State. She grew up in Thailand’s Umphiem refugee camp, where she worked for the community for 6 years. Hsit Hsa has been in the United States since December 2011, soaking up the San Diego sunshine. She “love[s] working for the refugee community of Burma,” she says, because its people are so close to her heart. Even though she is in a third country, she says she is “so glad to have a chance to work for the community.” She “feel[s] that the community needs [her]” and she “love[s] to give as much as she can” to them. Her dream is to go back to Karen state to serve, and share what she has learned in the United States.
Youth Program Coordinator
April Moo started as a Case Worker and Youth Coordinator at KOSD in July of 2012. After growing up in a refugee camp on the Thailand-Burma border, she came to San Diego in 2007. She joined International Rescue Committee Peacemakers in 2009. The group, started by refugee high school students, gives her and her peers the opportunity to present at local high schools and colleges about life as a refugee in San Diego.
At the KOSD office, April likes how she gets to interact with the people around her. She knows how tough it can be to adapt to life in the U.S. without English language skills, having experienced such difficulty firsthand in the healthcare system shortly after she arrived. Her, and her family’s, hardships upon resettling fuel her desire to help refugees through KOSD. From translating for clients to providing transportation for their appointments, April helps her community on a daily basis. “I’m very passionate about helping people,” she says, “which is why I want to return to Burma one day to serve others as a nurse.”
Eh Eh Wha
Eh Eh Wha has been working at KOSD since July of 2012. Eh Eh was born in Burma and is Karen. When she was two, she and her family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand. She shares, “it was a society where it was almost impossible to have an education.” After growing up in the camp, Eh Eh arrived in the United States in June 2007. She attended Crawford high school from 2009 to 2012 and was the first in her community to graduate with her diploma.
She has learned through her hardships and life experiences that it is important to take advantage of opportunities. “I am thankful,” says Eh Eh, “for the opportunity that I have to obtain an education; I will never take that for granted.” In addition to taking prerequisites at a local college for her nursing degree, Eh Eh serves KOSD by taking clients to the welfare office, DMV office, Hospital, Clinic, and interpreting. She is interested in learning new things, helping people, and is responsible and a hard worker.
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator
Diana Rhoades recently joined KOSD as the Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator. She is serving as a part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Diana is originally from Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. She has experience teaching English as a Foreign Language to adults and university students in Spain, Japan, and Vietnam. Last year she served as a Team Leader for the FEMA Corps program, supervising a group of AmeriCorps volunteers in disaster management projects in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington DC.
Diana is passionate about culture and has visited more than thirty countries, spending a month or more in half of these. She recognizes that this freedom of motion is not afforded to most in the world and that refugees fleeing their homelands and living in camps are particularly limited in their movement. She is happy to have the opportunity to lead volunteers in assisting refugees from Burma as they adjust to life in San Diego. Diana is excited to be at such a caring, empowering organization and looks forward to learning about the culture of KOSD community members.