The mother in the first family is originally from Afghanistan. She left with her parents when she was five years old. They lived in Iran for thirty years. She married and had all her children in Iran. From Iran, they spent 7 months in Romania and arrived one month ago in Arizona. They have family in Afghanistan and Iran, but none here. The language barrier has made things difficult for the children in school and for the mother to communicate. The oldest son is 19 and wants to study and work evenings. The two younger sons are 16 and six. The daughter is nine, all three are attending school. The mother (age 35) hopes to find part-time work that is not heavy labor, due to back issues.
The second family is also from Afghanistan originally. They lived in Iran for 33 years where the father (age 46) and mother (age 35) met, married and had all their children. Toward the end, life in Iran was difficult because jobs were hard to find. The father worked in a bakery and later in construction to make ends meet. The oldest son is 15 and speaks some English. They have two daughters, ages nine and seven who attend school. They also have a two year old son that is very curious and active and keeps his parents on their toes. They currently have no other family members here and need to learn English.
The third visit will be to a step-dad and step-son who are Cuban asylees. This means they are able to work here and apply for residency if they are in good status. Once they get permanent residency, they can apply for a petition to have family join them. They left Cuba in search of a better life and arrived in Arizona on November, 2015. The step-dad left his wife and 3 year old son in Cuba. Both men just found employment working maintenance in an apartment complex and are looking forward to having family join them in future.
This family of three joined us from Baghdad, Iraq in February, 2016. A mid-fifties aged mom is here with her two grown children, a son, 26 and a daughter, 30. Mom is recovering from an illness so has not yet begun studying to learn English and does not plan to venture into the workforce at this juncture. Both children hope to attend college and work professionally in the US. The daughter would like to study pharmacy and the son, culinary arts.
This young family of four came to the US in December from the Baghdad area where the husband worked with the US Military. The couple has two boys, one eight years old who loves soccer and “everything” about the United States. The younger son is an angelic looking toddler. Dad and his sons love watching and playing soccer. Mom’s favorite color is red. One thing that has surprised this family since coming to the US is how good the drivers here are. In Baghdad there is no speed limit and apparently lots of crazy driving maneuvers! They are looking forward to a good life in America.
This family moved to Phoenix from a smaller town in central Iraq in February 2016. The couple has four children aged three to eleven – two boys and two girls. The youngest, a daughter, is still at home with Mom while the others are in school. The children love the US and have picked up English very quickly. After just a few short weeks, Dad is already employed, in spite of the fact that he knows very little English yet. In Iraq, Dad had a shop selling socks while Mom kept busy at home raising the children and tending the family’s needs. The family feels safe and happy here. What surprised them the most was a series of funny but unfortunate events that occurred with first move-in to the apartment – from appliances not working to roaches to …you name it. It all worked out fine and the family enjoyed a laugh about having perspective – really these challenges were nothing compared to what they faced in Iraq.
The family we will visit is from Burma, or as they prefer to call it, Myanmar. This family consists of a mother, father, 3 daughters age 8, 10, and 16, and one son, age 19. The mother is originally from Thailand, and the father is from Myanmar. In 1988, the father and some of his family fled Myanmar to escape religious persecution and military rule and fled to Malaysia under UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) protection. They are part of the ethnic group known as Rohingya, which has been living in Myanmar for generations, but have not been recognized or accepted for their culture and religious practices. Religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists, who make up the majority of the population, has caused wide-spread persecution and violence against the Rohingya for many years. There has been little done to protect these people, and thus, they have been forced to escape their homeland and seek community and refuge in other parts of SE Asia. The father and mother met in Malaysia and married in 1992. In the late 1990’s, they tried to go back to Mayanmar, but discovered the persecution and violence was just as bad if not worse and they fled again to Malaysia. The father worked in construction in Malaysia and the mother stayed at home with the children. They are very happy to be in the US and know they are safe now. The father is unable to work due to health issues and the mother stays at home with the children. The 19 year old son is working to help support the family. They are slowly learning English, and the younger children are happy to be in school.
The family we will visit is from Myanmar. The family consists of a mother and father along with 4 sons ages 1, 3, 9 and 12. When the father was a young child, he and his family fled Myanmar to escape religious persecution and military rule and fled to Malaysia. The father and mother met in Malaysia in 2000 and married in 2002. The father worked in construction, putting up power lines. It took them 1 year to apply for acceptance to the US and they arrived in early February. The father is trying to get work: the mother will stay home with the children. The children are very excited to start school but there has been some challenges with social security numbers that has delayed their start. They are starting to learn English. Their primary reason for leaving Malaysia was to provide a good education for their children.
Another family we will visit is from Iraq, and they arrived in the US in early December 2015. They have 2 daughters ages 1 and 3. The father worked for the US Army and a US contractor as a laundry person and before that drove a taxi. Once his job was finished, they were given assistance to leave Iraq and come to the US due to very unsafe conditions. They still have family back in Iraq, but they will not come to the US due to not being able to leave their spouses and families. The father just got a job in a hotel in Phoenix, and the mother is trying to find a part time job in the mornings when her daughters will be at school or daycare. The thing they like best about the US is feeling safe and having so much help from so many people.
This Cuban family consists of a woman, age 34, and her boyfriend, age 36, and he arrived in Arizona in November and she arrived in December because there was a delay in her paperwork. The couple are in a permanent relationship but not married, and the woman explained that the majority of Cubans do not marry their live-in partners. She is a dentist with a specialty in periodontal and surgical dental care, and he is a physical therapist and masseur. They had been sent by their government to work in a special program in Venezuela and used this opportunity to flee to Colombia where they applied at the American Embassy for visas to the States. They had made this decision because economic and political life in Cuba was “impossible’ noting that their freedoms were restricted and their pay was poor. The woman said that her salary as a dentist was only $25 a month.
She left behind a grandmother, mother, and sister in Cuba. The couple are very happy to be here and remarked that they “loved “ America noting that most Cubans want to emigrate to America. The couple are both studying English now, and they are going to be employed as youth care workers in a program which provides services to unaccompanied minors from Central America. They are currently living in a studio apartment but plan to move into a one bedroom apartment by the end of April.
This 18yr old young woman lost her parents when she was one year old, and she doesn’t remember them. She has been living with her maternal aunt since she was a baby and considers her Aunt and Uncle to be her real Mother and Father and their children her brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, due to the family size and lack of affordable 4 -5 bedroom apartments, the family is split between two apartments and she shares the apartment with her cousins. The young woman and her adopted family lived in the Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya for almost ten years before being selected for resettlement in a third country and moving to the U.S. on Feb. 3, 2016. The young woman would like to go back to school and earn her degree instead of entering the work force.