The first family we visited arrived on December 9 from a refugee camp in Nepal after living there for 18 years. They and other families (roughly one-sixth of the Bhutanese population) who are ethnically Nepali were forcibly driven from their homes in Bhutan by a king who wanted to purify the Bhutanese population. In their previous life in Bhutan they had a small farm and two of their children were born there. Three other children were then born in the refugee camp. The children are now 19, 17, 16, 14, and 11. Their oldest, the only daughter, is not yet in the country but they hope she will arrive in the next few months. Having never flown on a plane, they were a bit frightened when they traveled to this country and the travel was arduous. It took five flights to get here as they flew from Katmandu to Delhi to Newark to Dallas to Phoenix. Their apartment is only sparsely furnished. The wife, who is partially deaf, looked quite listless and sad. There was no food in the kitchen, a problem that Catholic Charities planned to quickly rectify, and they have no other family in the States.
The Second family is a young couple expecting their first child within a month. This couple, from Bhutan, has nothing except a few borrowed items like a table and two card table chairs. They met and married in the refugee camp. We asked if they had any photos of their marriage but they explained that a large fire had swept through the camp and burned all their possessions, including the few photos they had. The husband’s devotion to his wife was very evident. He was sweeping the apartment as we arrived and he told us he will not let his wife do any work because she is pregnant. They were very sweet with each other. They have nothing for the baby. Luckily, her family is already in Phoenix so they have some emotional support. His English is quite good and he was a teacher in the refugee camp. He is very anxious to find a job to support his young wife and soon-to-arrive child.
Our third family is a young Burmese couple who has five children. They arrived October 28 and the apartment is very sparsely furnished. Translation was difficult with this family; we found someone nearby who speaks their dialect and some English. We learned that they have three girls (14, 12, and 4) and two boys (6, 2) and that they spent nine years in a refugee camp in Thailand.