Our first visitation was with a family from Burma, although only the mom was home. Two of their children ages 7 and 11 were both at school; their son married in the camp and so was unable to come with them. Mom said they had lived in the refugee camp in Thailand for 9 years. Although they were given medical care and schooling for the children, mom said they were always hungry. She gestured with her hands that her son was gaining weight since he’s been here and that he now loves to eat. Before having to flee Burma her husband had been a farmer, growing rice and vegetables. He also worked as a farmer during their years in the camp. Mom is attending English language classes but says it’s difficult for her as she can’t write. Other than missing her oldest son, she is very happy to be here. She wants her children to grow to be good people, to go to school and to have a good life.
Our second family is also from Burma: mom, dad, paternal mom, a 7-year old son and a 4-year old daughter, arrived in Phoenix June 13th, 2010. Mom, grandma, and daughter were the only ones home when we did our visitation. With a smile, mom announced that her husband was at work; he had found a job in a hotel. Their son was at school, which he is enjoying. Mom says her son likes school, is happy, learning English, and making friends. Mom is now 25 and had lived in the refugee camp since she was 12. She said life in the camp was very hard as they had many restrictions and couldn’t go anywhere. It was here, though, that she fell in love and married. Her little sister remains in the camp. Her dad is in Salt Lake City but she hasn’t been able to visit him; her mom is deceased. Mom said her first thought when she arrived here was, “Safe. We are safe.”
The last family we visited today arrived here nearly 2 months ago. They are an Iraqi family who were forced to flee their homeland. Terrorists dressed in black, faces covered, warned them to leave or face possible death. Knowing that most of their neighbors had already been killed because of their religious choices, the family fled to the paternal father’s home and then to Turkey. While in Turkey, the dad found “simple jobs.” He had run his own market in Iraq. Their 4-year old loved the plane ride; dad said she ran up and down the aisles, truly enjoying herself. The mom says she has been happy since the day she arrived here. They have no other relatives in the US.