One of the families which will receive a WTAP delivery this week is a large Burmese family consisting of a couple and their five children. They have four teenagers and a twenty-one 21 year old son. The family fled the Karen state in Burma in 1999 after they were labeled “enemies” by the army. During the next fourteen years they resided in a gated refugee camp located on the Thai-Burma border. There are nine such camps in Thailand where over 150,000 refugees reside in overcrowded conditions. This family’s hut was made of bamboo and there was electricity available which was a “luxury” that they did not have back in Burma. They felt safer in the refugee camp than in Burma, but they had to rely on assistance for food and shelter because the Thai government forbade them from working legally. If they had been caught working the result would have been arrest and deportation. The family arrived in the U.S. in late July. The couple and their two eldest children are taking English classes while the three younger children are enrolled in local schools. The husband, wife and oldest daughter are also weavers and are very proud their beautiful handiwork. Because the family arrived in Arizona very recently, they are still adjusting to their new surroundings and culture. They are struggling with time management because they did not have to worry about schedules or appointment while they were living in the refugee camp. Now that they are here, they are focusing on education and jobs to build a new life for their family.
Another visit will be to a Burmese mother and her eighteen year old daughter. They arrived in Arizona in June, 2013. The mother also has three older children; one lives in Burma, another still lives in the refugee camp, and a son who arrived in the U.S. six years ago. The son’s location is unknown. This family lived in a Thai refugee camp after fleeing their home approximately ten years ago. They were treated as the enemy by government forces in Burma who told them they were not citizens, and as “rebels” they would be killed. The mother and her children walked for five days with other villagers to reach the Thai-Burma border where they were placed in a camp with assistance from the UNHCR. The daughter attended camp school and she speaks a little English. She hopes to continue her education here and to find a good job to help support the family.
The final family we will visit this week is a Burmese family of five. They were driven from their Chin community by the political situation and ethnic persecution in Burma. After several years in Malaysia, they arrived in Phoenix this July. The daughter and two sons are enrolled in schools and report that they are glad to be here. The father was able to work while they lived in Malaysia, and he already has a job here. The mother hopes to find work as well, however she needs to work close to home because she gets car sick easily.