It must be the sparkle in her dark, smiling eyes. Or is it her contagious laughter? But for some reason, it takes a while before you realise that Hae Tar Gray has a disability. One of her legs is bent outward in an awkward position and dangles next to the other. She can’t put any force on it.
Walking is a real challenge for the girl, especially going up the steep slopes in the refugee camp. The way to her home is also full of obstacles. To get to her bamboo-stilt house, she needs to jump over a 1.5 metre-wide trench, which even her siblings without disabilities need some acrobatic skills for. But Hae Tar is used to it, she’s never known anything different. She was barely one year old when her family fled Myanmar and came to live in the refugee camp.
"Hae Tar sometimes forgets she has a disability," says her 16 year old sister Naw Gray Poe worriedly, (who’s fourth in line in a family of nine children). She accompanies Hae Tar to the Handicap International rehabilitation centre and makes sure she does her exercises properly.
"It’s a good thing that she exercises, but I often worry she’ll fall down. Especially in the rainy season, when the camp gets flooded and the paths turn into a slippery and dangerous track."
Unfortunately, Hae Tar experiences every day that her friends are not representative of the entire camp. When she wants to play football with the other children, they soon make very it clear that she won’t be able to. She then goes and plays dibs on her own somewhere. This happens more often than Hae Tar cares to count.
But Hae Tar refuses to be lonely. While the other children play, she takes extra English lessons. "I want to be a teacher. I’m already in the third grade," she says in English.