July 31, 2010

Bhutanese FlagOur first family was a 23 and 26-year old Bhutanese husband and wife. They arrived 45 days ago after living most of their lives in a Nepalese refugee camp (since age 5) where they met. They are expecting their first child (they do not know the sex) in October. They are joining his family in Phoenix. His mother and father, grandmother and two brothers live in the same apartment complex and they arrived from Nepal in 2008.

The husband briefly described the situation in Bhutan where people were tortured if they did not abide by the government rules, which forced people to adhere to certain cultural norms, wear specific clothing and speak a set dialect. For these reasons, they fled to Nepal. He has one brother and one sister still living in the refugee camps in Nepal. It’s unclear where his wife’s family is.

Both can understand English and the husband speaks excellent English. He completed his BA in Business Administration in Katmandu. He was excited that he recently bought a laptop computer and hopes for a computer table with the Welcome to America Project delivery. They would also appreciate clothes, toys and supplies for the baby (high chair, crib, etc.)

Iraqi FlagThis family came to Phoenix at the end of April directly from Baghdad. The family worked with the American military in Iraq, mainly as translators. The father also worked as a contractor for the American military and his wife made bread for the army. The family received threats and letters calling them “traitors” and the children had to leave school because they feared for their safety. One of their sons was kidnapped and later killed by the militia. In the process of attempting to get him back, the family gave their house and car away.

Despite their trials, they are grateful to be in America. One of the brothers is now in the UK in the British army and another is now living in Norway. The family living in Phoenix consists of a husband, wife, two sons and two daughters (daughters age 20 and 12, sons age 16 and 14). All of the children are skilled chess players and are rated nationally and internationally. Their father taught them each to play chess and speak English. The father has diabetes and is suffering from complications affecting his eyesight and feet, which will make it difficult for him to provide for the family.

Eritrean FlagOur third visit was to two young men (30 years old) from Eritria. They arrived in Phoenix on April 27th. They were both born in Eritria and fled to Ethiopia to escape the military requirements of their country. These two friends met in an urban refugee camp in Abu Dhabi, the capital of Ethiopia after spending a few years in a refugee camp outside of the city. They both spoke to the difficulties of living in a refugee camp, specifically being forbidden from working and traveling.

Originally there were four men sharing this apartment but two are moving out to live closer to their jobs. This will make it more difficult for these two men to pay their rent. They shared their desire to work and their knowledge that they must be patient to find a job. They are ready to have activity, community, to learn and to work and make money. Their parents remain in Eritrea.

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