Submitted by Collin Cunningham
On a recent Saturday morning, eight refugee youth gathered outside an apartment complex in West Phoenix, ready to join 15 local Phoenicians in a day of volunteering. The group volunteered with us to deliver a complete home makeover to three new refugee families. Not too long ago, these youth arrived to Phoenix as refugees from Bhutan, a country nestled in the Himalayan Mountains next to Nepal.
In the late 1980s, early 90s the government of Bhutan forced out the Lhotsampan people in an effort to eliminate cultural diversity and bolster the predominantly Buddhist culture. In the last two years, Bhutanese refugees have made up the second largest group being resettled in Arizona.
This past summer, these refugee youth, like many of their high school peers in Arizona, are heeding President Obama and Governor Brewer’s call to volunteer service. But, unlike most of their peers, these youth grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal and have only lived in the U.S. for 1-2 years.
Executive Director, Megan O’Connor states, “The Welcome to America Project is so grateful and excited for more helping hands. It is incredible that in such a short time these teenagers have acclimated to their new homes, enough that they now wish to give back and invest in the Phoenix community.”
The refugee families they helped came to Phoenix from all over the world, escaping persecution, overcoming unimaginable hardships and resettling in the U.S. with the simple hope for peace and freedom.