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.
Community Program Manager
Larkapor was born in Burma and grew up surrounded by her home country’s beautiful mountains and vast farm fields. She finished her education in Burma in 1987. In 1988, Larkapor moved to a Karen refugee camp in Thailand. She taught both Karen and Karenni in refugee camps for over 20 years. In addition to teaching, Larkapor 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, Larkapor began to work with Jewish Family Service for its Family Strengthening Program as a trainer, giving Burmese and Karen community members the tools to orient themselves to U.S. culture. Larkapor began working as a case manager for the Karen Organization of San Diego in November 2011, and she now serves KOSD as Community Program Manager. 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.”
Community Program Assistant Manager
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 has been Youth Program Coordinator at KOSD since 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, gave April and her peers the opportunity to present at local high schools and colleges about life as a refugee in San Diego.
April was the first Karen to graduate from San Diego City College in 2016 and one of the first to graduate from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2018. She is also the first to pursue the Master’s of Social Work degree which she is currently completing at SDSU.
At KOSD office, April is grateful to be supporting displaced people from Burma including the Karen. She knows how tough it can be to adapt to life in the U.S. without English language skills. Having lived through such difficulty as a young person, she realized that many of the youth from Burma face similar challenges. Her experience and success have motivated her to empower the community’s youth as Youth Program Coordinator at KOSD.
April’s responsibilities at KOSD include developing sustainability for the youth in the community, encouraging them to seek self-actualization, and providing the kinds of resources they need to be successful in American society.
Eh Eh Wha
School Relations Coordinator
Eh Eh Wha has been working as a caseworker at KOSD since July of 2012. This year, she took on new projects as the School Relations Coordinator, assisting refugee youth and their families from Burma who live in San Diego. 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 and her family moved to the United States in 2007 and settled in San Diego, California.
When Eh Eh enrolled in high school here in San Diego, she made a promise to herself that she would focus on her studies and take advantage of all the educational opportunities available to her. She attended Crawford High School and graduated in 2012. After Eh Eh graduated from high school, she attended San Diego City College and graduated in 2017 with an Associate Degree in Human Service. She then transferred to San Diego State University. In May 2019, she will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.
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.” Her communication skills coupled with compassion and a desire to motivate others to help themselves are some of her strengths. The successful outcomes she has been part of have motivated her to continue her work in the field of social work. From her work and studies, she has realized that working with diverse people and supporting them is what she enjoys the most.
Community Program Assistant
Paw Ku came to San Diego from Mae La Refugee Camp in July of 2007. She joined KOSD in 2017. One of her first responsibilities included working on community stories. While interviewing and recording the elders, she learned a lot of new things and felt more connected. She loves working with the elders and helping her community. She now serves as Community Program Assistant for KOSD. She is also a student at Grossmont College majoring in Public Health/Nursing.
Culture Program Coordinator
Paw Lay was born in Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. Her parents decided to come to the United States in order to provide a better education and a brighter future for their children. In the summer of 2008, her family resettled in San Diego and Paw Lay started school at Ibarra Elementary shortly thereafter. She graduated from Crawford High School in 2018.
In October 2017, Paw Lay started working for KOSD as Culture Program Coordinator. Her duties include working with the youth and the community, and planning for cultural event. Paw Lay is currently a student at San Diego State University majoring in Social Work.
Youth Program Assistant
Lwe Htoo has been working as a youth assistant at KOSD since July 2018. Lwe Htoo was born in Burma but moved to Mae La Oo Refugee Camp in 2001 because of civil war between the Karen National Union and the Burmese military regime. His family lived in the Thailand refugee camp for ten years before coming to the United States. In 2010, he and his family resettled in San Diego, California. In 2015, he graduated and earned his high school diploma from Crawford High School. Lwe Htoo is currently attending San Diego City College, and Miramar College majoring in Mechanic Technology. He has learned through his hardships and life experiences that it is important to take advantage of opportunities and to strive for success.
Culture Program Assistant
May Thaw is a Karen from Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. Both of her parents are from Burma but fled to Thailand for safety and security. Her family came to America in 2008 when she was eight years old. She has been working with KOSD since 2014 as a part of the First Generation Club. She also contributes her talents as a dancer for the KOSD community. She is currently on the path to becoming a teacher and is working on obtaining a degree in Liberal Studies at San Diego Southwestern College.
In the future, May Thaw desires to use her teaching education to make better opportunities for Karen youth living in Thailand and Burma. By bringing her teaching skills to Burma and Thailand, she hopes to improve the current education system which is expensive and often inconsistent. Her own parents were denied the opportunity to go to school due to the hardships of war and the constant need for relocation. By becoming a teacher to refugee youth, May Thaw hopes to be an example to others and to inspire them to achieve their dreams.