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May 11, 2011

Bhutanese FlagOur first home visit was with a family originally from Bhutan. When we arrived, we were greeted by the mom, dad and their adult son. The son arrived two years ago but moved in with his parents earlier this year to help support them. Their youngest, a 17 yr. old daughter, was at school. The son spoke English and was able to tell us their story. They left their homeland in 1993 when the father felt their future was uncertain due to the government’s “ethnic cleansing” of non-Buddhists and Nepali-speaking people. He gave up his occupation as a farmer and the family fled to Nepal. After approximately 17 years in a refugee camp, the family was granted refugee status and has found a new home in Phoenix. Another daughter and her family live in a nearby apartment. The father is unable to work due to a debilitating disease and the mother is also unwell. The son is employed as a janitor but would like to find a job with higher wages. Their apartment is modest and they have only a few things. The son requested a bed board (full size) or firm futon for his parents, a microwave oven, vacuum cleaner, and a backpack for his sister.

Bhutanese FlagThe second family we visited was also from Bhutan and consisted of a husband, wife and their young son. The husband spoke English very well and told us that his father had been a people’s representative in Bhutan, acting as a liaison between the Bhutanese people and the government. As time went on, his father was threatened with imprisonment and he felt that he had no choice but to leave his homeland. At the time, his sons were away at a boarding school and his wife was too ill to travel so he had to leave alone. Two years later, the sons fled Bhutan, carrying their mother since she was too sick to walk. They spent the next 18 years in a refugee camp in neighboring Nepal. The husband told us that he had been a teacher for the refugees in the camp back in Nepal and had also earned an accounting degree. He and his wife have been married for five years and his wife is from India. His parents have been in the U.S. for a year while this young family arrived in Phoenix less than two months ago. He is eager to find employment to support his family. Special Requests: a computer to help with job searches, educational materials for their 3 yr. old son, tricycle, vacuum cleaner and bus passes.

Eritrean FlagOur third visit was with three young men from Eritrea, a country located in northeast Africa. At one time, Eritrea was an Italian colony, later captured by Britain during WWII. It later became a federated part of Ethiopia in 1952 and its province in 1962. It wasn’t until 1993 that Eritrea gained its independence. At the time of our visit, only one of the young men was home. He spoke English very well and told us that he had left Eritrea in 2006 after soldiers threatened him when he couldn’t answer questions about friends’ activities. It took him three days to walk to Ethiopia and he did not have much food or water. He praised the Ethiopian soldiers who helped him, saying that even though they were considered adversaries, they gave him food and water so he could survive. In the refugee camp, he had no family and had to build his own shelter out of mud, grass and plastic. He spent four years in the camp before arriving here in June, 2010. His two roommates were also in the same camp, but he did not know them well until they moved to Phoenix. The young man told us that he is working at the airport but hopes to enroll in a nursing program some day. The apartment is very small and three twin beds are crowded into the one bedroom they share. They have a small loveseat and dining chairs but no kitchen table on which to eat their meals. Other items that would be appreciated are a vacuum cleaner, desk, transit passes, and a bicycle.

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