November 21, 2009

Burmese FlagOur first family is from Burma. The dad was home with his 2 children; his 6-year-old son is not yet in school as he’s still getting the required inoculations. I think he’s looking forward to going to school as he said through the interpreter that he likes to play but doesn’t have any friends. His sister is only 2. Dad claims to be 37 yet looks much younger. His wife was not home. He thinks she is 45. Dad is actually from the state of Karen and does not speak Burmese, so 2 interpreters were needed and found. Through them, we learned that the dad had lived on a farm near the mountains with his parents, growing rice and corn. The family was ordered by the Army, under threat of death, to stop growing these crops. Without food, the family had no choice but to leave. They went to Thailand in 1996 and were in a refugee camp until this past August when the dad and his family were able to come to the U.S. His parents remain in the camp. The dad said it was in the camp that he met his wife. When asked to describe his life in the refugee camp, his response was, “Not happy.” His first impression of Arizona was “Happy but hot!” The father has no training but would like a job doing anything.

Somali FlagOur second family is from Somalia. This family consists of 7 people: a mother, age 43, four sons, ages 19, 17, 13 and 5, and three daughters, ages 15, 10, and 8. She also has another adult son living nearby that we visited a few weeks ago. She left Somalia in 2006 because of the war and she feared for their safety. Her husband passed away in Somalia after having surgery. They arrived in Phoenix two weeks ago. Life in the refugee camp was really tough because of a lack of food and shelter. The water supply was inadequate. The children have lots of medical issues. One of her daughters had surgery since arriving. In Somalia her husband had worked as a loader with a small cart making deliveries and she worked at a small restaurant.

Somali FlagOur third family consists of nine people: a father, age 44, a mother, age 47, five daughters, ages 4, 8, 9, 11, and 13, and two sons, ages 3 and 6. The father left Somalia in 1992 and ended up in Kenya. He met his wife there. She had two kids from a previous marriage. They had six more children, but one passed away in the refugee camp. One of the younger sons had a stroke, and they think he may have cerebral palsy. In Somalia the father worked as a sewing machine operator and a farmer. This family has only been here for four months, and they have a very positive attitude considering how they got here. They were originally supposed to go to Texas, but when they got to the airport they were given tickets to Phoenix. They went from Kenya to London and had a five hour layover then to New York where they also had a five hour layover. Next they arrived in Phoenix where no one was expecting them. They spent most of the night at the airport until airport staff started checking to see why they were there so long. They noticed the family had a bag with them that read Catholic Charities. So they started calling around and got a hold of someone. So Catholic Charities picked up the family and put them in a hotel for two days. They also brought them some of their native foods. Catholic Charities was able to get their paperwork and decided to relocate them here. The only thing the father could say about the trip is that it was very long and he was tired.

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