IDP camp. All photos: Author

This well-researched narrative letter is a mix of true stories and views expressed by IDPs (internally displaced persons) encountered by Matador Ambassador Ryan Libre in Kachin state, where he has spent many months living inside the IDP camps.

DEAR MR. US PRESIDENT OBAMA, SIR,

I found your address in an old newspaper, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC. I hope you still live there.

I hope this letter reaches you before you visit my country. I live in Kachin state in the north of Burma. I am 14 years old. My name is Ja Seng. Ja means “gold” in Kachin, and Seng means “jade.” In Kachin state we have a lot of gold and jade.

I would be in the 7th standard now, but because the army burnt down my house and school, my parents and I had to leave our town. I now live in a camp near China.

This was my house…

Our camp has very pretty mountains around and a lot of nice people. Can you please visit my camp when you come to Burma?

Most people in the camp are very excited about your visit. My mom was a school teacher so I asked her why. She said if you, sir, say even a few words about the Kachin and the camps, the whole world will know and will come to give us food and build me a school, and maybe I can even go home again soon.

Me before I came to the camp

But some people don’t seem so happy about your visit. My mom said if you don’t say any words about us, the world will think we are not important and don’t need help.

Someone else told me you were coming to help the people who burnt my house and school, but I told them that Mr. Obama would NEVER do that, because in my town we had a TV and I saw you a few times and you look very nice and say good things. I also saw your daughter, who is the same age as me. Maybe that guy has never seen you before.

We lost most of our things when we ran away, but I brought our handheld radio. I will be listening to your speech. Will you bring your daughters to Burma also? I hope they can visit my camp, too.

My father listening to you on the news. He wants to talk to you. He knows English well.

I have to go now to find wood so my mom can cook. It’s getting harder and harder to find after over a year here. Don’t forget to say a few words about us!

Your friend,
Ja Seng

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For more info on what’s happening to the Kachin, please visit freekachin.org and when-will-it-be.com.

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