Refugee update Sept. 2009

Quotes from a quarterly report by a local refugee coordinator:

“Even when the economy is down and the unemployment is up, refugees from Burma are coming to the United States every month at a steady rate. From January 2009 to September 2009, we have welcome and helped 22 new families with a total number of 107 people. These families are Karen and Karenni families who came from Thai-Burma border only. Due to the economic recession and the poor language and job skills of the refugees, many of them haven’t found jobs and have survived so far only on welfare. Some of them have found seasonal farming jobs but their jobs ended when the farming season is over. A few families have moved to other states where the rent is cheaper and a job is available. Those who stay in Seattle have faced financial difficulty because the cash assistance they get from DSHS usually doesn’t cover their rent. Besides the rent, they have to pay for utility, telephone and their travel loan. Life is not as easy as they thought it would be.

Activities undertaken during this reporting period: July– September 2009

• Bring furniture, clothes, shoes and food to 4 new families and warm clothes and shoes to 18 families.
• During this reporting period, ( July – September ) we helped 8 families and 5 singles, altogether 43 people to get their Green Cards. The service we provided includes making civil surgeon’s appointments, interpreting for them during the appointments, filling out the application forms and taking them to the immigration office for fingerprints. So far, 4 people have gotten their Green Cards, 34 people have finished their fingerprints process and 5 are waiting to have their fingerprints taken.
• Took 7 families to license office to get their Washington ID cards. Altogether, 15 people got their Washington ID cards.
• During this period, 5 people went to ER; 3 for acute diseases, 1 for childbirth, and 1 for domestic abuse. We provided transportation and interpretation for them.
• Make routine medical appointments for 5 elderly people and take them to their appointments and interpret for them. One got his hearing aid and another one received surgery on both eyes for cataract and both eyes were totally healed.
• Make routine dental and immunization appointments for 8 families; altogether 20 kids. Provide interpreter as needed.
• 2 families received Section 8 government housing voucher and we provided transportation when the families moved.
• Work with 3 school districts as an emergency contact person and provide any assistance needed by both parties. This includes picking up sick children at school, replying calls and emails from school, and interpreting for the families at teacher parents conference.

There are 5 families who were resettled in another county , remote from the community. They face many problems that need to be addressed. For example, one family came in June 2009 but all the family members haven’t received their social security number yet. We visited them only one time, talked about their problems and reported their problems to their caseworkers. Language problem is a big issue for them since their resettlement agency couldn’t find an interpreter who can speak Karen or Karenni.

Many of the Karenni families speak only their own dialect so it is very hard for the resettlement agencies, schools, and clinics to find interpreters for them. Moreover, many of them are from the remote areas in Burma and totally illiterate so it is very hard for them to assimilate to the new society.

Why are the refugees here?  This link to a story recently published in Utah, and this link to a video taken in Burma will help explain what it is they were seeking refuge from.

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