One visit will be to a family from Burma. The husband and wife fled to a refugee camp to escape the 66 year old civil war. The family then had to flee the first refugee camp which had very dangerous and had unhealthy living conditions. In 2006 the husband and wife fled to Malaysia where conditions in the refugee camps were better. They arrived in Arizona on November 20th 2014. The husband worked in a restaurant in Malaysia and the wife worked as a sales assistant. They are glad to live in a society where they can have freedom. They would like to learn to speak English. The husband is currently working at a local market in the meat department.
Another visit will be to a family of four from Iraq. The husband (age 31) worked in pharmaceutical sales. He also played professional basketball. The wife (28) worked as a computer instructor. They have two sons (ages 3 and 1). The family fled Iraq because of fear for their safety. They arrived in Arizona on October 10th 2014. The parents would like to pursue their education after they learn to speak English. The husband is currently working in a warehouse preparing orders. Their hope to find a better life for their two boys in their new community in Arizona.
Our third visit will be to a family from Iraq. The husband is 41 years old. In his country, the husband worked as a blacksmith. The wife is 42 years old. Unsafe conditions in Iraq forced this family to flee to Turkey. The family lived in Turkey for three years where they worked in a garment factory sewing items. They arrived in Arizona in mid-October of last year. They are learning to speak English on their own by studying together. They would like to work in any capacity. They have learned to use the public transportation system in Phoenix. They are very independent, and travel around the city looking for jobs by themselves. This couple is glad to be able to pursue a life of freedom in America.
One family we will visit is from Iraq. The family consists of a father (age 50), a mother (age 51), three sons (ages 25, 22, and 19), a daughter (age 17), and a daughter-in-law (age 17). The daughter in law is married to the eldest son. The father worked US military in Iraq for six years. The family’s home in Iraq was destroyed because of the father’s affiliation with Americans. the family decided to leave Iraq because they feared for their personal safety. They have another son who is married with two children who lives in Turkey. The family hopes that he will be able to join them in the future. The family arrived in Arizona in May of 2014. Unfortunately they had to dispose of most of their bedding recently because of a bed bug infestation. Their apartment is now very sparsely furnished. The father is currently employed in a warehouse while the two sons found work as dishwashers at a casino. The other brother and sister are attending high school. The family dreams of being able to buy a home. All the siblings hope to further their education in America and to expand their job skills.
Another family we will visit is from Iraq and consists of a father (age 48) and mother (age 37). They have three sons (ages 3, 4, and 5) and two daughters (ages 8 and 11). The family has one married daughter and a divorced daughter with a young child who still live in Iraq. They are worried about their divorced daughter’s safety in Iraq, and hope that both daughters will be able to join them in Arizona soon. The family arrived in Arizona a month ago. They chose to settle here because they have a cousin who lives in the area. In Iraq, the father worked for the American Forces from 2003 to 2011. He speaks English very well. He was an interpreter for the military but later became worked with contractors on behalf of the US government. He worked as a maintenance supervisor in the military camps. He was unemployed for a couple of years after his contract ended in 2011 and then worked in the oil fields. He faced employment discrimination and threats from the militias because of his work in support of the American military mission. For years the father dreamed of bringing his family to America so that his children would have the opportunity for a good education and quality health care. The father is very pleased by the reception his children have received in the Arizona school system. He recounts an incident when a teacher bent down to tie his daughter’s shoelace. The dad feels that an Iraqi teacher would never show such kindness to a student. The father is currently looking for employment to support the family.
Another family we will visit is a Burmese family that consists of a father (age 47) and a mother (age 46). They have a son (age 17) and two daughters (ages 5 and 3). They had their own house and farm in Burma where they raised animals; however, they belonged to an ethnic sect which was persecuted by the government. The family fled their country six years ago after their lives were threatened, and their cows were confiscated by the military. They arrived in Arizona in November from Malaysia where they had been living as refugees. They left behind two daughters (ages 12 and 13), who are currently living with the father’s eldest sister. They have already filed paperwork to bring their daughters to the United States but this is a lengthy process. The two youngest daughters were born in Malaysia where the father worked menial jobs to support his family. They are happy to be in the United States, and the parents are looking forward to beginning ESL classes because neither speaks English. Their son is enrolled in high school and will begin attending classes in January. The father’s first priority is to find employment so he can support his family.
The first family we will visit is from The Democratic Republic of Congo. The mother (age 24) and her four children, (a 9 year old son and three daughters ages 6, 5 and 1), arrived on October 24th of this year. The family left the Congo in 2004 because of the war. They lived in a refugee camp in Burundi. While in the camp the mother bought food at the market which she sold in the camp to make ends meet. While they were living in Burundi her husband left her and the children, so she faces her new life here as a single mother. The family were farmers in their home country, and the mother also misses land and farming. However, she has a mother and sister that have been living in Arizona for a while so they can give her some support. Also, the mother has made some friends with other women in their apartment complex. Three of the children are already enrolled in school!
The second family is also from The Democratic Republic of Congo. This family consists of a single mother and her three daughters (ages 10, 9 and 1). The eldest daughter has a disability and she cannot walk or talk. The mother and daughters have a beautiful relationship. The mother is a strong, bighearted, amazing woman who has made some good friends in Arizona who support her and her children. In the Congo she cooked Cassava root and ground it into flour to sell. She lived in a village near a mountain in her home country. When she arrived in Arizona she became friends with one of her neighbors and they realized that they had lived on the other side of the mountain from each other! The girls are very smiley and happy to be in America with their loving mother.
The last family we will visit this week is a couple from Afghanistan. The husband (age 26), was an interpreter for the U.S. forces. The couple was sent to North Carolina when the husband’s life was endangered at home. The couple has friends who live here so they relocated to Arizona. They are starting over in new place. They have no furnishings and are in need of almost everything to make their apartment a home. The wife is 24 years old. he couple is expecting their first child! They feel they have a good life here, and are adjusting to the cultural and other differences they encounter in Arizona. The wife is homesick for her family in Afghanistan so they will definitely appreciate the visit and donations received from Welcome to America this Saturday!
tea with cardamom
Of course sharing of our time and helping our new friends with basic necessities and toys for the children is what this annual event of giving and sharing is expected to be, but there is more. The cultural exchanges, smiles and camaraderie are just as important. When offered some tea by the Iraqi family we visited last Saturday, we were touched that they wished to host us as friends with a cup of tea. We were pleasantly surprised by a hint of something different in the tea, and inquired about it. We were shown the Arabic Ceylon tea packaging, but we knew it was something more as we have that particular tea at home. When I inquired further that there was something else in the tea, the wife nodded and ran back into the kitchen. She returned with green cardamom seeds and explained that she crushed these and placed them in the teapot to steep with the tea. It is absolutely delicious, and something which we learned from our new Iraqi friends.
Tonight, at home, we are enjoying the same tea with cardamom, and thinking of our cultural exchange and a wonderful new way of having tea!