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November 13, 2010

Iraqi FlagThe first of the three families we visited is from Baghdad, Iraq and consists of a young mother, age 25, her husband, age 30, and their beautiful baby daughter who was born after they arrived in Phoenix. She is now three months old. Both adults are well educated with the wife completing her university studies and earning a degree in Biology. Her husband has a Computer Science degree but is having difficulty finding employment here without the needed certifications so he will be taking some classes. While in Iraq, the father had been employed by at least three companies with U.S. ties; a communications company as a customer care representative, another company that provided aid for U.S. projects in Iraq, a world-wide shipping company, and another company that manufactured antennas for the U.S. Army. They began to fear for their lives when the husband became the target of an attempted kidnapping and then again when the police stopped and questioned him. They took away his Identification card and his company transferred him to a different facility for his safety. This young family felt that they could not stay in Iraq safely and applied to come here this summer. They arrived June 1st and are living in a sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment. They only have a bed, some basic kitchen items, a card table & chairs, and a crib that was gifted to them by a new American friend. They can use many items to make their apartment less sterile; for example, a vacuum, a dresser, coffee/end tables, lamps, wall décor, and toys for their baby.

Iraqi FlagOur second visit was with a couple also from Iraq. We were surprised to see their apartment furnished quite nicely when we arrived but then learned that they have been in Phoenix since May. Their only request was for an area rug for their living room and warm clothes for the wife, age 26. The husband, who is 30 yrs. old, speaks English very confidently and is currently employed at a clothing store nearby. He also volunteers with a resettlement agency. His goal, however, is to work for a security company since he had previously worked as a bodyguard for government ministry officials in Iraq. While a bodyguard, he was shot at three times during the course of his employment. He stated that he is of Assyrian descent so that may be one of the reasons why they were in danger and had to leave Baghdad. They have many family members in the U.S. and seem quite happy to be here. The wife is not comfortable speaking English yet but will be taking classes soon at Phoenix College. The husband recently got his security clearance so he is going to start applying for jobs in the security industry.

Cuban FlagOur last visit was with an outgoing single man, age 31, from Cuba. When he’d first arrived in Phoenix approximately four months ago, he lived with a roommate. The roommate found a job and had to relocate, taking most of the furnishings with him. Our gentleman’s apartment only had a twin bed and no other furniture. He had put the mattress on the floor in the living room so he’d at least have something to sit on if anyone came over to visit. He did have one floor lamp which he carried with him around the apartment when he needed lighting at night. Back in Cuba, he had been employed as an Occupational Health and Safety specialist, supervising approximately 600 employees. He was also studying law in Cuba, but because of his political beliefs was forced to quit law school. He applied for political refugee status and the process took six years before he was able to come to the U.S. He came by way of Mexico, Miami, and then Phoenix. His mother remains in Cuba and he is grateful to have a borrowed computer so he can communicate with his family back home. Currently, he works part time as a jack-of-all-trades (dishwasher, food prep./server) at a fast food restaurant. On the day of our visit, he was excited to go to the airport and apply for a full-time job that would help pay the rent and finance additional education. He expressed much appreciation when we told him that we would be bringing a delivery crew to help furnish his apartment; he basically needs all types of household items & furniture (except a bed).

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