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November 26, 2011

Democratic Republic of Congo flagThe first family we will visit is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire). The family consists of the mother (39), two daughters (19 and 2) and three sons (16, 11 and 6). The daughter speaks English and can help with translation a bit. This family lived in a refugee camp for 15 years. They were forced to leave Zaire due to war and military conflict which continues to this day. The 19-year old daughter told us that in the camp they were totally dependent on help from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). Originally farmers in their native land, they couldn’t cultivate crops in the camp nor was there much education. In the camp food was rationed and had to last until the next rationing. Both mother and daughter expressed how welcome they feel in the U.S. They want to learn English so they can communicate with their neighbors. The grandmother and uncle (24) live in the same complex. The two-year old daughter is a delightful, inquisitive child in need of toys, educational materials and perhaps a small blanket. The other children could also use some games, books, educational materials and school supplies. Other special requests are hair gel and vaseline.

Iraqi FlagThe second family we will visit is a family of eight from Iraq. Those present at the home visit last week consisted of a husband, wife and 20 year old son. The family left Iraq for Syria after they felt endangered. The wife said that she had been tortured in Iraq for her contact with the American Army while she was pregnant and lost the baby as a result. It was unclear how she aided the American Army but there seems to have been some contact with a service woman and possibly some translation assistance. The wife’s English was ok, however she was able to communicate better through her son whose English was more advanced. The husband used to be a jeweler and had everything taken from him. The family fled to Syria by taxi and stayed there for 4 years. When an asylum application was approved they migrated to the U.S. At first they went to Michigan but had difficulty finding work. The family still feels stress and trauma over what happened to the wife. They live in a spacious single family home. It is furnished but could use several items including a TV. They decorated the home with pictures (without frames) and artificial flowers taped to the walls. Picture frames, baskets and vases would help brighten their space. Toys and books for the 6 year old daughter would also be helpful.

Somali FlagThe third family we will visit is a family of eight from Somalia. In their home country, the husband was a farmer. During Somalia’s Civil War, his land, cattle and belongings were taken by the military. He was also shot during the war. The family fled to the Dhadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya in 1992. They had lived there until moving to the U.S. The husband and wife met and married at the camp. All their children were born in the camp. Five of the six children have had some schooling. The 16 year old male speaks English. He is very bright and places a strong emphasis on education. The family is in need of life skills training such as figuring out how to get around town, where to get supplies, how to enroll the children in school, hygiene practices and where to take ESL classes. Toys for the children (9 year old male, 7 year old female, 3 year old female and 1 year old male) would be appreciated. A bike and soccer ball for the eldest boy (16) would also be appreciated.

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