Karen Refugee Community Update-Seattle

This recent report from Maggie gives a glimpse into the growing Karen refugee community here, and the challenges people face in resettlement……

       “…Since July, 15 new families and two free cases arrived in Seattle and the total number of refugees has grown from 224 to 284 people.  This number applies only to Karen refugees living in the Seattle area and not to the Chin population and the Karen living in Kitsap county. People are working together helping to meet the needs of the community according to the knowledge, skills, talents, and time they have.

       Within two months, about 50 people got laid off and only 10 people regained jobs so far. Due to language barrier and the lack of education and skill, it is very difficult for these people to find jobs. Some people do have jobs, but they are minimum wage jobs and their incomes barely cover their rent. The families are in a tight financial situation.

       Children  also face difficulties at school because of language barrier and the lack of support at home. Parents have no education to help their children with school work nor have parenting knowledge to discipline their children. Children cannot stay for after school programs to get extra help with school work because they have no transportation.  Parents cannot talk to school counselors to get them more help due to not knowing the language.  Some children are doing so-so, some are doing poorly, but none have gotten into serious problems yet.  Many of the children are at risk of dropping out of school.     

        Despite problems and difficulties, the community is being there for one another. Gay Htoo who was a teacher in Mae La Camp and Naw Dah who has some education help the children with their homework. Johnson got laid off recently and so he has  time to take children as well as adults to doctor’s or dental’s appointments and even to ER and interprets for them. Say La Wah also got laid off so she has time to go to ESL class to improve her English and also takes care of her neighbors’ kids when they have to go to doctor’s appointments. Ku Gay, Htee Haw and Sammy Htoo have lived in Seattle for one year so they show  the new arrivals how to take the bus.  Htoo Htoo and Say Say are errand boys, Pwint and Simon are quick to respond to the community’s needs  and Steve is 911 for the community. 

         Finally, we would like to thank those who have continuously supported us with things such as our community center space, bus tickets, rice cookers, school supplies for the children and other things. We would like to thank Teacher Jenny and the women’s group for their donations. That helps the new families with some of their basic needs and the school supplies for their children.  We will always treasure and appreciate your help and support.”  


One thought on “Karen Refugee Community Update-Seattle

  1. Good post showing the difficult transition that it is for immigrants. In Cleveland, I live near one of the members of our vibrant Liberian community and until recently was neighbored by a Lost Boy of Sudan. I find that the priests and deacons of our local churches are the ones easing their transition, and it is a wonderful witness to see. An example of this is a Burundian man who came into the West Side Catholic Center last week to get emergency clothing and supplies. He had been referred by a diocesan priest who will continue to help the man after the 6 months of federal government assistance is long gone. This is one example of Christ’s body working where the government is unwilling or unable. As the priest said to me, what is six months when you have to find a job, get housing, and learn the language?

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