Our first family is a family of six from Burma. The family consists of a mother and father and four children, ages 20, 17, 14 and 12. At our visit, only the 20-year old adult son was home. They are from a village in the mountains in Burma. There, the parents were farmers, practicing slash and burn agriculture. They were forced to flee their village when the government set it on fire over ten years ago. The family walked on foot for many months to reach the Koh Kyaw refugee camp in northern Thailand. They lived there for ten years and he shared the dangers of living in camp, including being on constant alert for the Burmese military to shoot mortars into the camp. They arrived in Phoenix on June 22, 2010. He said they feel safe here; there is no danger from the military in their new home. The younger children are enrolled in school. They have almost nothing, except the beds, couch and card table and chairs provided by Catholic Services.
The second family is a family of five from Burma. The family consists of a mother and father and three children, ages 18, 16 and 5. Only the father was home when we arrived. They were driven from their village by the military government when it was burned and replaced with an army camp. They fled their village in 1995 and moved to the Burmese-Thai border. In 2000, they crossed the border into Thailand and lived in a Thai refugee camp for the past ten years. The father practiced slash and burn agriculture prior to their move to the refugee camp. In camp, he was involved with planning and building of huts for refugees. He spoke of the limited freedom and fear for their safety while living in camp due to the police and the army. They arrived in Phoenix on July 14, 2010 and have no remaining family living in Burma. He is happy to be in Phoenix because there is not the same danger here. He noted that language is a real challenge. The two younger children are enrolled in school and the 18-year old is hoping to work. He expressed a need for a telephone so he can call their social worker and others for help. This family also has very little.
The third family is a family of seven from Burma. The family consists of a mother and father and five children, ages 22, 19, 18, 15 and 2. The interpreter explained that this family is of the DeWay tribe, which comes from the Mon ethnic group and they are the first of this specific ethnic group to immigrate to Phoenix. The father was involved in forced labor by the government. Many men were forced to work 15 days a month for the army or government for no compensation. He worked on the government railroad for half of each month. They were allowed to work for their family the other half of the month and during this time the father cut and moved trees to make money for his family. The family fled their village on foot over 13 years ago and the army chased them from village to village before they arrived in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border. They lived there for 13 years and arrived in Phoenix on June 22, 2010. Only one of the children under 18 is enrolled in school right now. Both parents are in ESL classes provided at the apartment.