Our first family is a family of four from Cuba: a father, a mother, a 16-year old son and a 9-month old son. They left Cuba on October 27th and traveled through Juarez, Mexico on their way to America. Although they are in the country legally, they have not been granted refugee status so no funds have been allocated to this family. For this reason, they can really use our help. They shared two reasons for leaving Cuba, two things they hope to find in America. They are looking for a better future for their children and they are looking for freedoms they did not enjoy living in Cuba. The husband told us that although Cubans have strong thoughts and feelings, they do not express themselves. He said, “if you feel hungry, you can’t say you’re hungry.” They lived in fear of the government and of their neighbors who could be informants. The wife has a brother in Phoenix who arrived two years ago. He has been working on and off in construction. In Cuba, the wife worked in a factory making hats and costumes for dancers. With a new baby, she expects to be a stay-at-home mom. The husband worked in a nursing home doing rehabilitation massage. They are currently waiting for their employment authorization so they can look for work here. They had not enrolled in ESL classes at the time of our visit. Their 16-year old son will enroll in school soon and can use a backpack and school supplies.
Our second family is a family of four from Burma and consists of a father, a mother, a 9-year old girl and a 2-year old boy. They were a quiet family and hesitant to share much about their journey or life in Burma. They arrived in Phoenix on October 20th, after living in a refugee camp in Thailand for five years. The family farmed when living in Burma and lived in a village between a government and a rebel camp. The government often inhabited their village and forced the men to work as porters and carry military equipment. Those who refused to work must pay the government a bribe and those who cannot afford to pay the government must flee. When they were traveling to the Thai refugee camp, they feared the rebel forces that threaten and kill people on the move. Since arriving in Phoenix, the parents have started ESL classes in the apartment complex. Their 9-year old daughter is registered to start school soon. Their neighbor interpreted for us and will be there on delivery day.
Our third family is a family of four from Bhutan: a mother, a 23-year old son, a 16-year old son and a 9-year old daughter. During our visit, only the 23-year old son was home and he was studying his English dictionary when we arrived. His English is good and we did not require a translator for our visit. When we asked about his journey from Bhutan, he proudly read us the detailed journal entries he kept about each step of the resettlement process. They arrived in Phoenix on October 14th, after living in a Nepalese refugee camp for 18 years. They left Bhutan because of the discrimination they faced there. The government forced people to speak the national language of Bhutan and did not recognize their Nepalese dialect or their different caste system. In the refugee camp, his parents worked in social services, helping other refugees. They currently have one aunt also living in the apartment complex. His father, another wife, brother, sister and grandma are also in the resettlement process and hope to join the family. This young man was excited to have us in his new home and looking forward to meeting all the volunteers on delivery day.