October 30, 2010

Iraqi FlagThe first family we visited was a family of four from Iraq; a 69-year old mother and three adult children (ages 42, 38 and 31). The family arrived in Phoenix on September 15. While living in Baghdad, two of the adult children worked for an American oil company and received threats at their workplace. They also noted the ongoing political instability, their Christian faith and a lack of basic resources (electricity and water) as reasons they left Iraq. In 2006, two of the children left for Syria and the mother and other brother joined them in 2007. There is another brother living in Auckland, New Zealand. This family had hoped to be assigned to Auckland so they could reunite with their brother. They shared that they do feel more safe and peaceful in Phoenix. They noted that the language barrier is very difficult and have started taking English classes. They asked that we focus on making their living room very comfortable and nice. One of their nieces, who speaks good English, will be at the apartment to translate on delivery day.

Zaire flagThe second family is a family of seven from Zaire. We met first with the father, and later the mother and 3-year old son joined us. The other children were in school (ages 7, 9, 13 and 15). Their journey took them from their home in Zaire (the Congo) to a refugee camp in Rwanda, and finally to Phoenix, where they arrived two weeks ago. While living in the Zaire, the father was a shepherd and sold livestock. In the refugee camp, he was a pastor. They fled Zaire due to war and a rebel movement/conflict between the outgoing and incoming president approximately eight years ago. This family supported the outgoing president and were targeted by the rebels. They walked for more than two weeks to reach the refugee camp Rwanda. They lived there for seven years before receiving their assignment to Phoenix. The father shared that he has three other children, still living in the refugee camp. Two of his daughters were married in camp and so were not considered for resettlement with his family. He is most worried about his unmarried son who was not approved for resettlement after his UN interview for reasons he does not understand. His parents also remain in Zaire because they were too old to flee the new regime with the rest of the family. He was warm and happy to share his family’s story with us. This family had very little, including two old, worn couches we would like to replace. In addition, to household items, toys and school supplies (and backpacks) for the children would be appreciated and the wife requested clothing for herself.

Burmese FlagThe third family consists of a single father and his two young children (ages 3 and 7) from Burma. They arrived in Phoenix in mid-July, joining his parents and two other brothers, who also live in the same apartment complex. The family fled Burma in 2000 due to an increasing military presence in their lives. Soldiers infiltrated their village and forced them to carry heavy machinery for the army. They fled to a refugee camp in northern Thailand where they lived for ten years. While living in the camp, he made some money farming and also completed auto mechanic school with an emphasis on motorcycle repair. His wife was not able to obtain her United Nations ID in time for the move, so she is still living in the Thai camp. They are very lonely for each other and the children miss their mother. The family’s mother is the only one that has found a job in Phoenix and she is working at the 99-cent store. Their father has difficulty walking and moving one side of his body; they believe these issues are a result of the toxic alcohol so prevalent in the refugee camps. The younger brother has been here two years, completed his high school diploma and obtained his CNA certification in Job Corps. He helps out a lot with his brother’s two children. He is very friendly, speaks good English and will interpret for us on delivery day. Their primary request was a microwave to help with preparing food for the children. They would also like toys for the children (a soccer ball, stuffed animals, a bike for the 7-year old and a toy car for the 3-year old to ride in).

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