August 20, 2011

Central African RepublicOur first visit is a large family from Central African Republic. Mom and dad came with their seven children and two nephews. The children’s ages vary from 18 to one year old. The family left their home in 2003 due to war. They spent 3 months in the bush hiding from rebels before arriving at a refugee camp in Chad. Two days after they arrived at the camp, the wife gave birth to a daughter. The father had no job at the camp and could not afford school for the children. Once a month they received food (cereal, cooking oil, soap, and sometimes beans). The nephews that came with them had a dad who worked for the police and was killed. According to their tradition when the father dies, the mother brings the children to the father’s family to be raised. We were told their mother has remarried. The long flight over was their first experience on a plane. They are feeling better here although they have many challenges ahead. Mom and dad are taking English classes and children will be in school soon.

Central African RepublicThe second family we visited was a grandmother (48) and two grandchildren (16 and eight). They are also from Central African Republic. They lived in a town far away from the city when war broke out. It was 8pm on a Sunday night when they were forced to flee their home by foot. They walked about 3500 km to a city where they paid for a ride to the refugee camp in Chad. This family had many losses during this journey. The woman had three sons and a daughter. The grandchildren she cares for belonged to her daughter who passed. Out of the three sons, two have passed and one remains in the refugee camp. Since he is 20 years old and considered an adult, he was not able to come with her. She misses him and hopes to be reunited soon. The children have been vaccinated and will be enrolled in school. The grandmother likes to sew and hopes to get a sewing machine so she can start a business from home and be there for the children as well.

Burmese FlagThe third visit was to a young couple and their 1 year old daughter. The father left Burma in 2003 because the farm his parents owned was taken over by the government. He fled to Malaysia and worked there but was arrested several times for not being a legal citizen. He went to Thailand in 2005 to work and was arrested for the same reason. He returned to Malaysia where he met and married his wife. His wife came from a village near a military camp in Burma. The military would force the villagers to work for them: cleaning, building or as porters who carry weapons, food and bullets (“like horses”). She escaped Burma in 2009 and went to Malaysia. After they married they registered for refugee status and arrived here on July 19th. They feel safe and happy here and want to thank the government and agencies that have supported them since their arrival.

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