Our first family is a family of 11 with a father, mother, and children ages 21, 19, 17, 14, 10, 8, 6, 5, and 3 – all sons and 1 daughter. They are originally from Somalia. They fled to Kenya in 1991 and remained there until their arrival in Phoenix in November of 2009. When we arrived we met a remarkable young man of 19 who is able to speak four languages. His English was excellent and was able to translate for his parents and the next family we visited. He told us when he was 3-5 months old the war began in Somalia. At the time his family owned cattle and goats. After some time, people came to his village and took all their cattle and goats, killed his father, assaulted his mother, and threw him into a fire. After they left, his mother took her three children and began the long journey by foot to Kenya. He described the refugee camp as a jail with no roof. If they left and returned to Somalia, they would be shot and if they went anywhere in Kenya, they would be arrested. They are all doing well here and the step-father teaches the Qu-ran to the children in the apartment complex. They could use some large pots, a large tea kettle, and a stroller.
The son told me a funny story I would like to share. When they got to Phoenix, they went directly to a hotel. Preparations had been made to have dinner ready for them. He told me that when they brought them dinner, his mother stared at it and asked, “What is this?” It was a big chicken, showing me with his hands about 1 1/2 foot wide and 1 foot tall, “they grow things very large in America, so this must be an American chicken!” The next day they were taken to their apartment complex and told not to leave because if they got lost, it would be difficult for them to get back to the apartment. On the second day, they decided to go just outside the door to have a look around and met a obese man. They said, “He must have been eating those American chickens!” I wonder if they knew the American chicken was a turkey.
Our second family is also from Somalia. In this family there is a mother and her 7 children and one on the way. She seemed very reluctant to talk to us. She had gone to Kenya in 1992 and arrived here May 6, 2010. Her husband is still in the camp and it was unclear why he was unable to come. She was feeling frustrated that she didn’t know her way around and had not found work yet.
Our third family is from Burma. In Burma, their village was located between the rebels and the government. The government told them to relocate to a city, but they felt this relocation was a bad idea from what they heard from others. Instead, they chose to go to Thailand in the refugee camps. One day, someone came to their hut and asked if they would consider coming to the U.S. After much thought, they felt that since there was a chance for a job and an education for their children, they would come. In this family of 5, there is a mother, father, and 3 children ages 5, 4, and 1.