Our first family is from Burma. They have been married for 18 years and have 3 children. (He also has 7 children from a previous marriage but they are still in Burma.) The Burmese government is military and accuses most minority groups of being “underground” rebels. The army raided this family’s village, came into their home and took everything, including the rice and all their food.
The family lived in fear and kept moving from one village to another. Finally they fled to Thailand, crossing the river on bamboo rafts. Their kids were 2, 4 & 6 at the time. They spent 10 years in a refugee camp. They did not have jobs, but basically grew rice and lived like farmers. When asked about their life in the US, they said they’ve been happy, but at the same time it’s been difficult having no work and not speaking English. However, both the children and the parents have been attending ESL classes.
Our second family is from Burma – husband and wife and 2 children ages 5 and 6. When the husband was in the village, the army used him as a “porter”. The army would force the men to carry their equipment, treating them like slaves. Being a porter, he was unable to work and had no time to grow rice. He eventually fled the village, leaving behind his mother and sister, and has not seen them since. He was in a refugee camp in Thailand for 15 years. He met his wife there. She had left her parents behind in Burma as well.
They are happy to be in the US and hope to find work soon and learn to speak the language. The wife was feeling lonely, being home all the time. However she has become friends with some of the neighbors. Their 6-year-old son says he likes his school.
Our third family is also from Burma. They fled from Burma to Malaysia. The husband went first, and his wife and daughter followed. They were in Malaysia, illegally, for 3 years. They rented a place and he worked in construction, but was eventually caught and put in jail for 5 months. His wife was pregnant at the time with their second daughter, who is now a year and a half old. A catholic agency helped her during that time. Their older daughter attended school only for 3 years in Burma but not while they were in Malaysia. The wife has a brother who is still in Malaysia and she keeps in touch with him by phone.
They are happy in the US but they said a job would help them feel more at home. Their 10-year-old daughter is happy in school. The English language is a bit difficult for her but she is getting better at it.