Ma Win and Ko Lay are no strangers to struggle and uncertainty.Their long journey to the US has been wrought with danger and disaster.

Ko Lay and Ma Win grew up in Myanmar during a time of great civil and political unrest. After the 8888 Uprising in Rangoon, Ko Lay fled to Thailand to escape the brutal rule of Sein Lwin, “The Butcher of Rangoon.” Once safely in Thailand, Ko Lay met Ma Win in a UN refugee camp and in the midst of great turmoil, their love blossomed and they married.

For the next four years, the couple embarked on constant relocation between Thailand and Malaysia, braving harrowing jungle conditions and military exploitation in an attempt to seek refuge. Eventually, they were granted asylum in the United States, and made Austin their permanent home where they could finally breathe free in the promise of hope, stability and the American Dream. 

Ma Win works in food packaging with Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Food, Inc. and Ko Lay is an established chef at the Thai restaurant, Pad Thai. They feel fortunate to have found work in the area of their greatest passion of cooking and feeding others. Rooted in the Burmese culture of hospitality and giving, their favorite hobby is to cook for family and friends and ensure no one goes hungry. 

The Sein’s are happy to join the Habitat community and feel as though they have been welcomed into a new family. In addition to a permanent home, one of the most exciting aspects of their experience has been the volunteer hours they have contributed and the homeownership education program. This has made them feel more secure in their ability to own and keep a home. Ko Lay has said that their experience has been “priceless.” They have been through a storm and joining with Habitat is “like stepping out from under the rain.” 

In return for this gift, the Seins want to wish the volunteers and sponsors building their home a happy and healthy future. There is no word to adequately express their gratitude and if ever given the opportunity, they would be honored to welcome their sponsors into their new Habitat home, cook dinner for them and together share in the peace of mind that this wonderful experience has given them.