America ended up being just a detour for this Sri Lankan couple

Not all immigration stories are forever ones, as Kennedy Vincent reports, and sadly sometimes discrimination plays an unfortunate part.

The Stress of War Back Home and Hate in their new One

Born and raised on the island of Sri Lanka, Devi Kumar and Pete Ambi met as childhood friends. They both believed moving to America would change their lives for the better. It ended up being just one chapter of many for their love story.

The two grew up as next door neighbors. Their childhood bond was strong and effortless. Moving to America, though, made them experience that the “American dream” is filled with discrimination, just like anywhere else.

Pete Ambi had been a successful realtor, and deciding on retirement plans was up in the air. That changed when President Barack Obama was elected. Instead of ushering in a post-racial reality, the election of the first black leader instead unleashed more racism out in the open.

“People were yelling at us in parking lots to go back to where we came from,” says Kumar. At this point, the couple wanted to leave and go where they felt safe.

Yet again, they were in search of a new place. Devi and Ambi left Sri Lanka years before their home country’s long civil war began, but their families were still back home.

Their families endured destruction and devastation. “My family ran out of the house leaving everything behind, whatever clothes they had were burned in the middle of the living room,” Devi recounts.

During the 1983 to 2009 war, their families lost all their personal belongings, homes and land properties.

“When I listen to my mom and sister tell their stories, I couldn’t find them during those days,” Devi said. “They were in camps, and I had no idea. They were in the heat, my mom was diabetic with no medication, they had no food to eat and a very small bottle of water.”

The difficulties their families faced created hardship on Devi and Ambi’s spirits. With faith and luck, Devi was able to sponsor her parents and bring them out to the United States.

A peaceful home at last

Many people have found that the money they make in the United States can take them far in other parts of the world, including in the South American country Ecuador.

The cost effective lifestyle and the mountainous village of Cotacachi, in Imbabura Province, is what caught Devi and Ambi’s eyes.

“Once you show them you are trying to speak their language they are very nice,” Devi said of fitting in with her new neighbors.

The couple has donated money to schools, homeless shelters and has helped pay for local children to attend school. They provided schooling for one of their workers, by paying for their children’s education for three years and donating clothes.

“We show our gratitude for the country by giving back,” the couple says.

Ecuador has become a safe haven for the couple, it is their serenity. They have a garden, access to nearby farms, local farmers markets and warm weather year round.

“Ecuador has helped us a lot, we are grateful it’s a peaceful and clean life. You can’t pay a price for this kind of peace of mind,” said Devi.

Reporting by Kennedy Vincent for the Reynolds Sandbox



The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.