March 12, 2020
Announcement from WTAP Regarding the Coronavirus and Our Precautions
One of the reasons that we welcome is to be good neighbors. We want refugees to know that we are glad they have arrived and are safe from harm. Refugee wellbeing is our overriding objective. In order to be a good neighbor and keep refugees and volunteers safe, we’ve made the decision to postpone warehouse volunteer activities, household donation in-take, refugee welcomes, clothing closets, tours and bike nights. We hope that this will be a short-term postponement and for now have removed all volunteer events from our calendar through April 30th. We also have closed the warehouse to incoming household donations. We’ll reevaluate as we learn more about this coronavirus pandemic.
Those who have joined our welcomes know how intimate our adventures are. Lots of handshakes and hugs. Lots of loving hearts. All in small settings. Clearly, it’s best that we postpone our welcomes, acting in a neighborly way.
Please know that we are very ready to welcome. We’ll just have to be patient. We look forward to future welcomes. Happy, healthy gatherings where we can say loudly and safely, “Welcome to America”.
Mike Sullivan, Agency Director
We will visit a family of three including a husband, wife, and their seven-year old daughter. They came to the US almost five months ago from Malaysia, and are very happy to be here, as the US is their ‘dream country.’ The husband currently works at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, mainly doing vacuuming duties. He hopes to find a new job that pays more, but has an injured right leg. His wife hopes to work sometime in the future, once she finishes addressing her medical problems. The husband speaks very good English, and is very happy to share with others.
We will also welcome a family of four from Burundi. They have been in the US for 3 months. The husband and wife are both hoping to find any type of work to help support their two daughters, age 1 and 7 years old, with the oldest being in school. They aren’t quite settled here in the US yet, but said they will slowly become used to it over time.
We will visit a recently-arrived family from the Congo. The family includes the mother and her two sons (ages 16 and 8), who arrived here in November 2019. The children are attending school, and the mother is currently working in a bakery. She fled the Congo in 1996 with her family because of the war raging there. Unfortunately, her father was killed during the escape. She settled with her mother and two younger siblings in a refugee camp in the western part of Rwanda where life was very difficult for them. She eventually married and had two children born in the camp; however, her husband died when her younger son was only six months old. When asked about her dreams for the future, she said “I just want to work hard” and “raise my children to be successful.”
We will also visit a family from Iraq. The father fled Iran 25 years ago because his family was threatened by the Taliban. He settled in Iran for 16 years where he married his Afghan wife and had his first son, who is now 10 years old. He worked in construction but he decided to leave the country because his son was unable to attend school there. The family moved to Turkey where they lived for 7 years in a refugee camp that had a school for his son but did not allow him to work which made life “really tough” for them. Their daughter, who is now 3 years old, was born in the camp. Since arriving in Arizona in December 2019, their lives have improved significantly. Their son, who is in the fourth grade, likes school and has already made friends there. Both parents are learning English along with their children, and the husband is working with his sponsoring agency to find employment. Their hopes for the future focus on their children receiving a wonderful education and becoming successful adults.
We will visit a couple who arrived from Syria just a few weeks ago. They fled civil war and bombings in Syria where they stayed for more than 4 years. The husband was an accomplished craftsman who made furniture and decor from iron. The wife, who speaks English, is an accomplished cosmetologist/hairdresser, so much so that she was honored by the Queen of Jordan for her teaching the trade. The wife is not in good health and is in process of developing a treatment plan. She is grateful for our visit and for our help to obtain cosmetology tools and a sewing machine so that she can work from home until she recovers.
We will also visit a Karen couple from Burma who were in Thailand for many years. They recently arrived to Phoenix. Karen are a terribly persecuted people in Burma. The husband escaped to Thailand with his family as a young child, almost 20 years ago. When he was older, he found work as a day laborer, doing difficult jobs for very low pay. The wife arrived to Thailand ten years ago, where they met and married. They are grateful to be in America and already pursuing work. The wife is happy to know that she is reunited with her mother, who arrived to Phoenix 5 years ago.
This Saturday, we will visit a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who arrive in the US in July 2016. The family includes the mother, daughter (age 7), and two sons (ages 3 and 18 months). The mother grew up in the refugee camp in Uganda. Her parents had left their village in 1998 due to all the political strife and civil wars throughout the country so the camp is all she has known. She lived with her mother in the same apartment complex and now, because she is working full time at the beef processing factory, she has enough money to afford her own apartment. She is very excited to begin setting up her home for her family. Her 7-year-old is in 1st grade and loves school. The 3-year-old and 18-month-old stay home with the mom or grandmother.
We will welcome another family from the DRC, who arrived in May of 2019. The husband and wife left the DRC in 1998 due to the civil wars and dangerous living conditions and fled to Tanzania, living in a camp until they came to the US. The husband works at Marshall’s in the packing area and the wife is at home often helping their daughter with her children. They are so happy to be living close by their daughter and grandchildren. They have a son who remains in the refugee camp and is in process of coming to the US to be with the rest of the family.
We will also welcome a 24-year old from Cuba. Due to the economic and political constraints put on he and his family (parents and brothers) he wasn’t able to earn enough money to support his family and decided to leave Cuba. He first went to Panama in March 2019 to begin his journey to the US. He traveled by walking, hitchhiking and traversed very difficult land such as jungles, crossing large rivers and many other dangers along the way through Central America and then finally to the border of Mexico. He was detained at the border of Mexico and had to wait 2-3 months to receive an interview to enter into Mexico. Once he completed the process in Mexico, he then made his way to the US border and was detained in TX and IL for 5 months. He has a cousin in AZ and was able to stay with his cousin briefly. He’s currently working part time doing side jobs with a construction company and is hoping to find full time work. He feels safe and happy in the US and is glad to be here setting up his life.
This Saturday, we will visit a young couple who arrived at the end of October from Afghanistan. The husband was a cook for the US Armed Forced. His affiliation with the US brought danger to his family, so he and his wife were forced to flee. The wife has a brother who lives in Phoenix, and the couple is currently living with friends from Afghanistan. As soon as they are more stable, they hope to find their own apartment. The husband is working in a restaurant and he and his wife are excitedly anticipating the arrival of their first child, who is due in May.
This Saturday, we will meet a family which includes two sisters, their brother and cousins living in two separate apartments of the same complex. They are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but due to wars and conflict they fled to Burundi in 1996. They lost their parents in the conflict. While living in Burundi, they made a living doing whatever they could – styling hair & doing hair braiding. They attended school off and on. Now that they are in America, they are very happy to be here, are looking forward to improving their English, finding work, and the older boys getting their GEDs. One of the sisters who loves to cook does the cooking for the entire family. The other sister loves to sew, and is hoping to get a sewing machine, and dreams of designing clothing and selling her clothing.
We will also meet a family who is originally from Iraq, having lived there during the Sadam Hussein regime. Living their lives in fear, they left Iraq in 2003 during the Iraqi war. They fled to Jordan where they lived for 10 years and one son was born. In 2011 they came to America, living in Florida where their second son was born, then relocated to Arizona. Although they are happy to be in the US and have found safety and opportunity, they have suffered many challenges, including the ceiling caving in on one of their apartments, badly injuring the father’s leg. One of their sons struggles from disabilities, but they are finding services that are available that can help them. The mother is trying to find work to help support the family.
With our partner, Phantom Cyclist, and many, many donors and volunteers, we have readied a truckload of bicycles to share through a program with the Congolese refugee community of Phoenix. Jobs, education and connection to community, all closer in reach. Saturday is the day we will share.