I am Tout Tou Bounthapanya and this is my story. I am Tout Tou Bounthapanya and I used to be Chanthanome Touttou Lounbandith. I came to the United States on March 1, 1989. My Father escaped from Laos first and was later joined by my Mother and two of my younger siblings who also escaped from Laos. The journey was dangerous and they had to leave both my little brother and me in Laos. Life without parents was not easy. To make a long story short, my little brother and I went looking for our parents and escaped from Laos. With God’s help we found our parents in one of the Thai refugee camps. This was a miracle as both of us did not speak Thai and had no idea where they were. Thank God we got to come to the United States as one of the refugee families. Refugee life is very difficult, but I thank God for leading us to our new homeland, which would be the United States of America. I love my new homeland and hope to give back as much as I can to the USA for helping my family and me. If we had not come to the USA, we would never come to know the true love of Jesus Christ, the Lord who loves everyone.
The first year living in the USA was not easy because my family and I did not know how to speak English. We were struggling in everything we were trying to do. We were scared of everywhere we go and we were scared of everything that could go wrong. This situation caused deep depression during those times after leaving Laos with a broken family. My childhood journey and all of the things I went through created major depression in the USA due to not knowing anything and not understanding the American way of life.
I personally felt like I was so lost when I came here and I cried a lot. There was a time when I thought about taking my own life, but because of God, I was able to connect with many people and services that helped me get through it. One of these wonderful organizations was FIRM! My family and I want to thank the USA for all the services that they provided to us and for helping make our dreams come true. The USA has offered this opportunity to many refugee families, not only ours. Now I am an American citizen and enjoy working, helping others and living each day with God’s help.
I have known FIRM since FIRM was born. I used to be a volunteer during FIRM’s Summer Youth Project and others. I have officially been working at FIRM for a little over 12 years. I am currently working as a Community Health Worker and Job Developer. When I look back on my story it makes me think about how good God has been to me and how He has used FIRM to truly impact the life of my family and me.