By Citizenship & Immigration Canada Reprinted from Citizenship & Immigration Canada's World Refugee Day – Stories project
Chai Bouphaphanh was born in Vientiane, Laos in 1967, and lived there until 1978. Due to the Vietnam War and repercussions in their country, Chai’s parents made the difficult decision to leave. After living in a refugee camp in Nongkhai, Thailand for two years, Chai and his family were privately sponsored by the Drake Mennonite Church to come to Canada. On a very blustery February 1, 1980, the family arrived in the small town of Drake, Saskatchewan.
It was initially a difficult adjustment to life in Canada, particularly because of the cold weather and new language. Chai says it was sometimes hard to balance his Laotian culture with his new Canadian home, crediting his parents with understanding the need to meld both cultures together. Overall, Chai enjoyed growing up in Saskatchewan, playing hockey in the winter, and tennis and soccer in the summer. “I love the cold weather now!”
Chai is currently a freelance photographer. His love of photography, volunteering, and travel has led him to do assignments for Room to Read in Northern Laos, the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Regina Open Door Society, and Macdonald Youth Services in Winnipeg.
Chai’s goal for the future is to continue to make people smile through his passion for photography. To this end, two of his photographs were selected for National Geographic’s “My Shot” to be included in its library archive of stock photography. He is also very proud to be part of the new book Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada as well as a project with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 called Canada: Day 1 to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
Chai’s family recently celebrated 36 years in Canada. “We are living in the best place in the world. I want to say thank you to Canada for giving us the freedom to live and an amazing place to call home.”