Our first home visit was with a Burmese family consisting of a mother and her adult son, age 29. Their apartment was very neat and tidy despite being rather bare. With the help of an interpreter, the mother told us that she had been a farmer in Myanmar while her son had been forced to be a porter for the junta, which meant he was made to lead the way through landmine areas ahead of the soldiers. The stress of being put in such dangerous situations probably contributed to the son’s health issues. The y eventually fled to Malaysia where they were able to obtain their refugee cards from the UNHCR. Having the cards meant they were in Malaysia legally but life was still very difficult. They spent four years in Malaysia before their resettlement here in the Phoenix area. A daughter and her husband remain in Malaysia but they are hopeful that they will be able to come here after their child is born. The son has regained his health and is taking English classes while he continues to look for job opportunities. The mother said they are very happy to be here where people are friendly and where there is freedom for everyone. Besides a job opportunity for the son, this nice family could use items to make their apartment a home…wall art, additional furniture, a television, radio, a bicycle and educational materials would be welcome additions.
The next family we visited arrived in the U.S. in December, 2009. We were greeted by a cheerful young Somali man and his sister who are two of five siblings, ages ranging between 14 and 25. Two younger siblings were at school while an older brother was taking a Finance class at the IRC. The mother arrived shortly and her son helped translate while we waited for the interpreter. It was good practice for him! The mother and two children fled war-torn Somalia to Kenya in 1991. They spent 18 years in a refugee camp where three more children were born. They still have family members in Somalia but there was no mention of the father directly. The son said he is hoping to be hired on at Sky Harbor Airport but must pass the badge test first. At the end of our visit, we noted that this large family could use a dining table that seats six, chairs, additional linens, educational materials, including a computer, as well as a television, DVD player and movies to help learn English. A soccer ball would also be greatly appreciated.
The third family we visited is from Bhutan. Only the mother was home as her husband had just recently found employment on a farm that produces radishes. They have two children; an 11 year old son and a 14 year old daughter, who were at school. The mother did not speak English but through an interpreter we learned that she and her husband had spent 18 years in one of the seven refugee camps established in Nepal. Their “home” in the camp had a roof made from black plastic garbage bags and the conditions were very harsh. The husband did labor work in the refugee camp while the mother took care of the children. Their apartment here in Phoenix is sparsely furnished and includes a couch from the dumpster. Therefore, this family would benefit greatly with a different couch, a desk for the children, lamps, wall décor, small dressers, small end/coffee tables, area rugs and a set of dishes. Toys, bicycles, educational materials and petite clothing would also be nice additions.
Our fourth family is from Iraq who has been living in Phoenix for 6 weeks via Egypt where they had to live for several years. The father was educated in both Iraq and England as an engineer; his English is very good. The family had to flee Iraq because of government persecution due to his affiliation with the English and American engineering companies that he had on occasion worked for. While in Egypt he was not allowed to work and was financially dependent on his family who are all still in Iraq. He has 4 children, 3 of whom have already started school. His oldest child is an architectural student and is eagerly waiting to start community college. The father says that his children are loving the American schools, especially the play areas, big classrooms and nicer teachers – he said that all of their English is improving rapidly which has given them all increased confidence. His wife is looking forward to making a permanent home for her family. They are all very happy to be in Phoenix. They have a cousin who lives by who has been here for about 14 months – he is very grateful for being able to communicate freely with his family in Iraq thru his cousins internet access.