Photo by John Polak Photography for Prosperity Candle
Our candle collection is hand-poured by Burmese female refugees at Prosperity Candle. Moo Kho is the Production Manager at Prosperity Candle, and she first joined the social enterprise in Massachusetts in 2010. We loved getting to learn more about Moo Kho, her family, her work, and her recent citizenship ceremony. Take a look below to hear from Moo Kho.
Please tell us a little about your family.
(My) husband, whom I met in the refugee camp in Thailand, is Shee, and our four daughters are Emerald (9), who was born in the refugee camp, twins Gloria and Victoria (6), and our youngest daughter Crystal (2). My brother Sawminhla lives with us, and I have a brother Livingstone who lives in Michigan with his wife, a son, and a daughter. Another brother lives in Thailand, and my Mom and fourth brother live in Bago, Myanmar (Burma).
Please share the fondest memory of your community of origin.
My happiest memory is living with my grandmother from age 4 to 15 years old. She taught me everything about cooking and life, and I loved her garden very much. It had many beautiful flowers, all different colors that made you feel happy even if you were sad. I miss her garden and her — both are always in my mind.
How long have you resided in the United States?
I came here in December 2, 2009 and have lived here since then.
Prior to your move, had you ever visited the United States?
No, I had only been in Burma and Thailand.
What was your first impression of your new home?
It is different than our culture, especially relationships and of course the food. In Burma, there are customs for respecting people older than you. … You must bow your head when you pass someone an elder. But you also can’t contradict or question your elders even if they are mistaken, which I don’t think is good. I like that about the U.S.
How do you feel about raising your family in the United States?
There is much more opportunity here for me and my children, but also less discipline. Children challenge their parents more here.
Congratulations on obtaining your American citizenship! Please share with us a little about that experience.
I feel much safer and that my family will have more opportunities. I was always afraid of the Burmese military. Three of my children were born here and so are U.S. citizens, but I wanted to make sure my oldest daughter Emerald could be a citizen too. When I passed the exam and was sworn in as an American citizen, she automatically became one too. Most of all, citizenship allows me to travel to see my mother. … Otherwise, I do not feel like I can go see her, or can invite her to meet her grandchildren here. Last November I also voted for the first time in my life at age 39, and it was a very important moment in my life.
What are your goals and aspirations for yourself and your children?
For my children, I would like them to go to college and be well-educated. Their education here is very good. For me, I’m a minister in my church and would like someday to visit Israel.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I love making candles and enjoying the friendship of the other women, who are also refugees like me. I don’t like packing.
We love working with Prosperity Candle and including your candles as part of our collection! How did you find out about the organization?
I learned about Prosperity Candle through a local organization that helps refugees, Ascentria. We were invited to hear about the opportunity to make unique candles, which interested me very much. At the time I was working at a bakery that I didn’t like. Prosperity Candle helped us with travel, paid us better, and offered a flexible schedule.
What is your favorite candle fragrance that you have made?
My favorite scent is Jasmine, which also has Amaranth in it. My grandmother’s garden was full of jasmine flowers, and it reminds me of her and that time of my life.
We are very excited to hear about your promotion to Production Manager! Tell us more about your role.
I help hire new women refugees and train them to make perfect candles — everything from cutting the wax to adding fragrance, pouring, and finishing the candles, including packing them in gift boxes. I am responsible for making sure quality is high and orders are made on time, and that we have enough of every ingredient.
Please tell us about your work training other refugee women in candle-making.
I enjoy training other women refugees in candle-making and helping them to learn every aspect of it.
We would love to share a recipe on our website for our readers to try! Could you tell us any traditional foods you enjoy preparing in your household?
My favorite dish is sweet and spicy pork with garlic, curry, onions and a little sugar … plus some extra spicy peppers. I serve it with rice and vegetables. The closest recipe is this one.
Do you have a favorite food you had never tried before moving to the United States?
Before I came here I had never eaten cheese, and the first time I tried pizza I didn’t like it. Now I enjoy it, especially pepperoni.
What is your favorite hobby and/or television show and why?
I don’t watch much TV, but my favorite hobby is badminton. … I used to play in Burma as a teenager, and I love to play with my daughters in our yard.
Do you have a favorite book?
Do you have a favorite quote?
Of all the quotes we use here, my favorite is by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a woman I admire very much: “Even one voice can be heard loudly all over the world.” She is a great leader, but sometimes people in Myanmar don’t understand what she is trying to accomplish. They want big change in a short time, but Aung San Suu Kyi is making steady progress on everything at once.