April 16, 2011

Bhutanese FlagOur three families this week have special circumstances surrounding their arrivals here in Phoenix. The first two families we visited are related. In total there are ten family members, consisting of two brothers, their wives, 5 children ages 13 and younger, and a cheerful elderly grandmother. The two brothers and one wife are hearing impaired. This large family is originally from Bhutan but fled to Nepal in 1992 where they lived together in a bamboo hut. The children were all born in the refugee camp. They described the living conditions as miserable, and the hut did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. They used a small grill to cook their food and solar lanterns to light their home. The adults were able to make a little money by working on farms. They arrived in the U.S. in February, 2010. Originally they were sent to North Carolina but did not have much success there. A nephew who lives here in Phoenix flew to North Carolina to be of assistance. After six months and not much success, it was decided that it would be better to relocate them all to Phoenix to be closer to their sister whose sons were employed and able to offer help. Unfortunately, this relocation forced them to leave behind what little furniture and household items they had back in North Carolina. When we visited their apartments, they were sleeping on the floor and had borrowed a couple of kitchen tables and chairs. Otherwise, there were very few items in their units. Even under these difficult circumstances, the families are very happy to be here in Phoenix and are hopeful for a better life. One mother said she is taking English classes so she can help support the family. The adults with hearing disabilities need assistance with their benefits and it may be some time before they are able to seek employment. Special requests: a bike for 13 yr. old girl to ride to school, art supplies, lunch bags and sign language books.

Iraqi FlagThe third family we visited is originally from Iraq and consists of a husband, wife and their three children, ages 12 and younger. With the help of an interpreter, the husband told us that he’d owned a shop in Iraq that sold entertainment CD’s and DVD’s. He was told to close his shop as this type of entertainment was not tolerated. If he refused, the terrorists said his son would be kidnapped and killed. The family fled to Jordan where they stayed for five years. In January, 2009 the family received their refugee status through the IOM (International Organization for Migration) and was sent to Iowa. They struggled in Iowa; the father was unable to find employment and the children were often sick from the cold weather. They decided to move and arrived in Arizona less than a month ago. When we arrived at their apartment it was completely void of furnishings. The family had sheets spread out on the floor to sleep on and a few clothing items. What little they had in Iowa had to be left behind. It was also noted that the family had no food in the apartment except for a small can of baby formula. We asked the interpreter how they were surviving and she said that she was taking them to her home each day to feed them meals. The husband and wife are interested in finding out more about the language classes being offered at their apartment complex and are anxious to find jobs. The husband has tailoring skills and also has knowledge to repair sewing machines. The mother is interested in any employment that will help support the family. Special requests: remote control car and cowboy movies for the 12-year-old son, diapers (size 4), baby walker, bikes, educational materials to help with English language learning.

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