Slain Refugee Mon Rai's Heartbreaking Essay About St. Louis: "My Heart Was Full Of Hopes"

International Institute/Wayne Crosslin
Mon Rai.
For nineteen years, Mon Rai, a 29-year-old immigrant in St. Louis, lived under terrible conditions at a refugee camp in Nepal.

"It was such a miserable life. We didn't have sufficient food to eat, no sanitation program, no good health services," Rai wrote in an essay last year. "It was like a hell."

In September of 2012, he finally immigrated to the United States with the hope of starting a new life for him and his family. But early Monday morning, Rai, who has been working as a clerk at 7-Eleven to provide for his pregnant wife and son, was shot to death by an unknown suspect.

Daily RFT has since obtained a copy of a personal essay he wrote last year, on view below, which underscores just how tragic his death is.

See also:
- Haris Gogic: Immigrant Brothers Shot, One Dead, In St. Louis Quick Stop Robbery
- Joseph Fox Charged In Murder of Haris Gogic, 19, Convenience Store Owner
- Mon Rai: Refugee Killed In 7-Eleven, Leaves Behind Son, Pregnant Wife

Rai was shot and killed inside the 7-Eleven on Gravois Avenue yesterday just after midnight. A customer found him bleeding to death, police say.

This homicide comes just weeks after a Bosnian immigrant named Haris Gogic, nineteen, was shot and killed inside his St. Louis convenience store.

International Institute/Wayne Crosslin.
Mon Rai.

Rai immigrated to Missouri with sponsorship from the International Institute of St. Louis, which offers adjustment services for refugees and immigrants. He was taking the institute's highest-level English class and the staff yesterday told us he was not only an exceptional learner, but also a positive, eager immigrant determined to succeed here.

His wife is expecting their second child this week.

Since publishing our story, we received a copy of an essay he wrote for a Thanksgiving program at the institute, which offers a first-person account of the hardships he faced in Bhutan and Nepal -- and the hope he had for the move to America.

"When I came to St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, my heart was full of hopes and dreams," he writes in the essay.

viaGoogle Maps
7-Eleven where the shooting took place.

Readers interested in donating to Rai's family can write checks payable to the "Mon Rai Fund" at:

Southern Commercial Bank
5515 South Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63111-1899

(Other locations of the bank here).

Here's the full transcribed essay, followed by a photocopy of the handwritten document, courtesy of the institute:


I was born in Bhutan January 1, 1984. I studied there up to 1st grade. Then due to the political situation, we were compelled to leave our country. So we went to Nepal in February 1993. We lived there for 19 years as refugees in the camp. It was such a miserable life. We didn't have sufficient food to eat, no sanitation program, no good health services. It was like a hell. We didn't have citizenship or good jobs. We raised our voices to the government to return us to our home country but it was all in vain. So at last IOM (International Organization for Migration) helps us to resettle in the United States.

So I decided to leave the refugee camp in order to have a good life and jobs in the United States. I decided to leave in 2008 but due to some problems our process was suspended. I was disappointed. It was a difficult task to make good decision in a short amount of time. It was difficult to arrange to leave. It was difficult journey from our country to the United States. We had to make transfers in different countries. Finally, we arrived at our destination in St. Louis. I hoped it would be a better life than in the refugee camp in Nepal.

When I came to St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, my heart was full of hopes and dreams. I was so excited when I arrived at the St. Louis airport. My relatives and social worker from the International Institute were there to receive us. I was so delighted. The social workers from the International Institue were so friendly and I was so impressed with them. Now I have to face different problems, like language and culture.

The International Institute was helping us to overcome our problems. They also provided us food, shelter, money, health services, job readiness and English language classes. It helped us adjust to the new environment. Now, I am ready for jobs, and to face the problems by myself. I learned the English language and the history about the United States.

Now, I am searching for jobs. This has been the most challenging thing for me in the United States, as well as learning the routes to get to different places. We have a good apartment to live in, a car for transportation, and citizenship in the United States. I will be a good citizen and help those who are in need of help. I want to give thanks to the people (IOM) who helped us settle in the United States, and the International Institute for good assistance.


Mon Rai

Here's a handwritten copy of that letter.

Mon Rai Essay

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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JJ O'Brand
JJ O'Brand

Is this the time for this^^^^^^^^^^^. That neighborhood has a bit of a lot, a touch of diversity. You Rick, are a prick....


This really pisses me of on a lot of levels.

The city of St. Louis has become a shit hole. a place no one should consider safe. And it's because of the people who live there and because of the leadership who keep it this way. It's time for the community to take responsibility for their neighborhoods and for their kids. The people should be reporting these animals who are suspects in armed robbery and violence.

There should be consequences for crime in neighborhoods, like curfews, check points , increased police presence and rather than lock people up with amenities we should put their asses to work cleaning up the streets littered with trash that they walk and drive past every day. It's disgusting to live in a community like that and there's no reason for it.

People need to start respecting each other again and not take for granted the liberties and opportunities that are afforded to a citizen here and this poor guy from Nepal is an example of someone we want in our community..with gratitude and ambition.

I just wish that whatever coward that killed him gets sent to the same refugee camp in Nepal he suffered from. That's justice!

I grew up in this same area as the crime 25 yrs ago and it had its problems but not like this. It's a crap shoot every day whether you'll get mugged, shot, or killed in the city.

Lastly its a shame the organization that brought him over has to stick his family in the ghetto of St. Louis. It's dangerous here and by them putting him in a high crime city they practically lead him to his death. There are so many spots that are safer if he could've only been placed in any other city but St. Louis. I would've rather stayed at a refugee camp and lived than come to the US to die. The only bright spot of this story is that his kids will have a better chance of a full life in the US, but only on one condition...that they move the hell out of St Louis city!!

Amber Crisman
Amber Crisman

So very sad. Such a tragic loss. Not only has our community failed this man and his family but we have failed ourselves. I can't help but feel that the gaping income and education disparity that we have in the U.S. is much of the contributing factor to the senseless violence we experience.

JoJo Prapaisilapa
JoJo Prapaisilapa

Two American dreams, one Bosnian and one Bhutanese, now dissolved because of aimless, senseless individuals. We have some great communities around here in St. Louis both in the city and the county, raising beautiful families and sound citizens... Just wish those qualities would wash over to the other districts one day. I've been lucky enough to have been part of a family who has been through wave after wave of struggles before reaching their American dream. My heart empathizes for his wife who apparently is expecting a second and for his children. Sounds like St. Louis just lost what could've been a great man.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"We need education and parents in this city" we need some gas chambers in this city. we keep letting violent punks go in and out and in and out of jail.

Brandy Earls
Brandy Earls

My heart is in sadness and I feel outraged that this is happening in our city. There is a racial hatred in our city, if you don't believe it, look at the other victims from last weeks murder. Where has our country turned, there is NO respect even on a humane level and it is spreading like wildfire. We need education and parents in this city, not violence and no fear.

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