One family home we will visit is shared by three men (ages 32, 38 and 43) who were friends in Cuba before they escaped to the United States. These three friends spent two years painstakingly planning their escape with the help of seven other friends. They built the boat in which they would eventually escape. They built the boat on one of the friend’s farm, and ultimately transported it to a beach in another friend’s truck. On a sunny day, on a popular beach near Havana, these men and their friends escaped Cuba and headed for Florida in their hand-made boat. Thirty miles off the beach, the motor on their boat broke. For the next two and a half days, they hand paddled their way to Florida. Some of the friends were split up once they gained refugee status in the United States, but these three men were able to move to Phoenix together. For one man, his arrival in the USA came after two other attempts; another tried five times before being successful; and the third tried to escape Cuba nine times before he finally arrived in the USA. Two of the men were truck drivers in Cuba. They hope to drive trucks again and they are currently working on their English. The other man was a farmer. He is open to any kind of work, and is just happy to be in the United States. The men have been assisted by the other Cuban immigrants and refugees in their neighborhood.
Another family we will visit is a young couple from Somalia. The husband (44) met the wife (30) in Somalia in 1997. They were married in 1999 in their hometown, which is a small village near Mogadishu. The civil war was in full swing by then, and the couple escaped to Cape Town, South Africa. They were able to live and work in South Africa where they ran a small store together. However Cape Town was also dangerous for them, and they eventually applied for refugee status. They have been in the United States for two months now. The husband speaks English very well; the wife understands a lot and is learning to speak English. They have both been helping their neighbors from Somalia and they are looking forward to getting jobs soon.
The additional family we will visit is also from Somalia. The father (60) and mother (56) have six children, five of whom live them in their apartment (ages 19, 17, twin 13 year olds and a 9 year old). They came to the United States from a refugee camp in Uganda where they had lived for eight years after they fled the civil war in Somalia. The father worked on a farm in Somalia. He also had a garage where he was a mechanic. When he refused to pay a bribe to rebels near his village, the father was shot. He is now partially paralyzed, and he has been unable to work. The mother worked odd jobs in Uganda, including running a stall at the market and waiting tables. All of the children were able to attend school in Uganda and the oldest son speaks English very well. He is hoping to get a job soon to help his family. The rest of the children have started to attend school nearby. Another grown sister who lives in the same apartment complex with her two small children, so the whole family is able to get together often.