The first family we will visit is from Iraq, from the northern city of Mosul. The family consists of the father (42), mother (35), one daughter (11) and two sons (10 and 8). They arrived in Phoenix five weeks ago. They live in a two story apartment that has large windows, creating a light-filled space both upstairs and downstairs. Although the apartment has just two bedrooms the rooms are big enough to accommodate the family. When the family lived in Iraq the father owned a body shop. He was also an expert in creating custom designs on cars and logos for the Iraqi police. He worked with the Iraqi army as well. His relationship with the army caused him and his family great trouble. He received a letter from terrorists telling him to stop working with the army and police and to work for the terrorists. The father contacted the police but a day later his house was bombed. Fearing for their lives, the family fled to Turkey. In Turkey there was no work and no school for the children. The family’s relatives also left Iraq because of the fear of reprisals. Both the mother and father are grateful to be in a safe place. They look forward to knowing the American way of life. They want their children to be safe and experience a freedom they have not known before.
The second family we will visit is from Bhutan. It consists of a thirty-four-year old man and his eighty-year old mother. The mother is quite frail. She uses a borrowed wheelchair right now. Their apartment is quite bare. The man is well-known in Nepal for his music. He is a lyricist and harmonium player. This young man has always loved music and working with people. When he was six his family left Bhutan for Nepal. They lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for the next twenty-eight years, until their arrival in the United States. The man intends to use his music here to help society as he did in Nepal. One of his songs translates to “Say No To Drugs”. He wants to work part time and go to music school. The Bhutanese who live in refugee camps in Nepal cannot attain citizenship. It is as though he has not been a citizen of anywhere for most of his life. He is looking forward to becoming a citizen of the United States.
The last family we will visit is from Bhutan. The family consists of the father (37), mother (38), one son (8), one daughter (7) and the father’s brother (49). The family arrived in Phoenix in mid-January. The children are already attending school in Phoenix. The older brother has some special needs. The family were farmers in Bhutan. When the Bhutanese government required that all people practice the same religion and dress the same way, the family had to leave. They fled to Nepal when the father was 15-years old. For the first two to three years life in the refugee camp was very hard. The family is thrilled to be in Arizona. The father is a mason, and hopes to find work in that field here. “I love this place,” the father says, “We have freedom in this country. Our children feel safe going to school.”