The first family we visited is from Eritrea, a small impoverished country that was at one time a province of Ethiopia. A civil war broke out against the Ethiopian government and fighting for Eritrean independence lasted for 32 years. The mother and father met and married in Eritrea. Their oldest son was born there while his two younger siblings were born in a refugee camp in Ethiopa. The father said the camp conditions were horrible and that they lived there for six years before coming to Phoenix two short weeks ago. The mother was very quiet and shy but indicated that she was very happy to be here in her new home. During our visit, their three adorable children enjoyed tickling us and offered hugs. When asked about his skills, the father stated that he was a carpenter and seems to understand a little English but is reluctant at this time to speak the language. He is taking English classes and hopes to find a job soon to support his family.
The second family we visited consisted of a mother and her two adult children. Only the mother and daughter were home at the time. Their homeland is Iran, but neither the daughter or son have been to that country. Both the daughter and the son were born in Dubai but lived most of their lives in Oman. After 15 yrs. in Oman, the family was deported due to their Bahá’í faith and moved to Yemen where they spent six years. The daughter did not feel safe in Yemen and stated that there were no services for foreigners there. They were able to work but were eventually blacklisted and not allowed to renew their Visas. The agency helping them suggested that they move to Turkey. They spent nine months in Turkey before coming to Phoenix in December, 2009. The daughter has a degree in Business Administration while her younger brother completed three yrs. at the university level. An older brother, who was an optometrist, also resettled in Phoenix at the same time and lives nearby with his wife and child. Another daughter is married and lives in Dubai.
The daughter is fluent in English as well as Farsi, Arabic and a smattering of Hindi. Currently both the daughter and son are taking classes through the IRC to become interpreters. The mother does not speak English but her daughter said she is hoping to get a sewing machine and notions (thread, needles, scissors) so she can make a few things. The daughter is a wonderful artist and showed us several of her pieces that she’d photographed (she could not bring the originals with her to the states). She would love to have a few canvases, brushes and oil paints while her brother, who is also artistic, would enjoy sketchbooks and artist pencils.
Our third visit was with a large family from Rwanda. Besides mom and dad, there are five daughters and one son, ages ranging between 4 and 22 yrs. old. The parents do not speak English but their son is quite fluent and articulate. They arrived in December, 2009 and are very happy to be in a country where they feel safe and have opportunities to improve their life. They fled from Rwanda in 2003 after the father’s family was killed (one brother survived and is imprisoned). The father felt that his family was being targeted due to their being a mixed-tribe family and were oftentimes looked down upon and treated poorly. They fled to Zimbabwe and spent seven years in a refugee camp. The son worked in a warehouse, sorting and stacking the inventory. While in Zimbabwe, the son was able to attend school through the 10th grade. He would like to earn his GED because he feels it will help him qualify for a job. He would like to find a job as soon as possible to help support his large family. In the meantime, he helps his family and enjoys meeting new people. He said he likes soccer very much and hopes to get soccer jerseys, cleats and a ball so he can play the sport with new friends. Two of his younger sisters enjoy volleyball and tennis but do not have the equipment to play.