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April 28, 2012

Eritrean FlagFrom the northeastern African nation of Eritrea, the first household we will visit consists of two young men (23 and 24) who are unrelated. The 23-year worked in a pasta factory before he left Eritrea, which is a reflection of the influence of Italian colonial influence in Eritrea. Before he left Eritrea four years ago he fled to Ethiopia due to persecution. In Ethiopia he lived in a refugee camp. He left most of his family behind with the exception of an older brother in Texas who has been a source of comfort and support for him. His family in Eritrea is expected to come to the United States as well. This man works in housekeeping at a hotel in Phoenix and has applied to a technical school. He is also taking a computer class. He summed up his feelings about Arizona and the United States by saying “Life is good!”

Iranian FlagThe next family we will visit is a family of three from Iran who arrived in the U.S. six weeks ago. The husband (44) is a filmmaker and journalist. He was forced to leave his homeland because of the content of one of his documentaries. He wife (42) is an archivist librarian. They have a seven-year old son. Both parents speak English. The family fled with three days’ notice to Malaysia where they lived for three years before coming to the United States. They had to leave all of their belongings behind. They were able to get by in Malaysia with the little money they had as the cost of living was less there than in Iran. The wife told a charming story of how the couple met. She was working in a library and he kept coming in requesting things. She caught on that he was coming in to see her but she played along. He eventually asked her out. This couple did not request much—in fact, they were hesitant to acknowledge any needs. Their two-bedroom apartment was well kept and somewhat furnished. The family is happy to be here and they feel safe in their new community.

Iraqi FlagThe third family we will visit is from Iraq. They are a family of six, consisting of a father (35), mother (35) and four children – three girls, (13, 11 and six) and one boy (1). They arrived in March. The father worked for the United States military as an interpreter in Iraq. He also worked in a plastics factory in Baghdad before becoming an interpreter. The mother worked at the Ministry of Education. Friendly and outgoing, this couple exudes joyfulness. The day we visited the three girls were at school. Their one-year old was at home and he had the same friendliness as the parents. The father speaks excellent English. The mother had just returned from her first English class. They have some family still in Iraq. The father told us the harrowing story of his house being raided by the National Police. After the police left, the family took a taxi to the wife’s parent’s house. They lived there for 18 months until they came to the United States. They are extremely happy and grateful to be here in a safe place. The father hopes to find work in security and the mother would like to work in childcare. They have a need for a small bed for their one-year old son as he sleeps with the parents now.

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