by Jane Torrey, Diane Benner, Lowell Fewster, Courtney Bourns, Donna Manocchio
Late on the evening of May 24, members of the AHCC Refugee Committee welcomed the Naing family at Bradley Airport after a flight from Thailand where they spent 15 years in a refugee camp. Min Naing (the husband, 25), Eh Tha You Say (the wife, 20) and Moo Nay Soe, their 15 month old daughter, are ethnic Karens (a minority ethnic group, some of whom live in Burma) who fled Burmese persecution as children.
Catholic Charities (CC), an official refugee reception center, invited AHCC to be its first refugee “Church Family Partner” in Hartford, working together as CC brings new refugee families into Hartford on a weekly basis.
Thanks to the great work of AHCC’s Housing Team, the Naing family were immediately taken to their lovely new apartment on Franklin Ave in South Hartford. CC’s staff has marveled at how beautifully furnished the apartment is, thanks to our team. Now, after just 5 weeks, the Naings are well on the path to independent living: Min is employed and being trained as a machinist in a local company, while Eh Tha You remains at home for the time-being, caring for their daughter. They have quickly mastered the Hartford bus system — and as a consequence, our Transportation Team has been called on only occasionally.
Eh Tha You is attending ESL classes at CC’s refugee integration center in South Hartford, as Min becomes more fluent through conversation in his workplace.
Special kudos go to our ESL team! Its members stepped into the gap created when it became necessary for CC’s ESL instructor to return to Pakistan for 6 weeks. Five mornings a week, members of our team have been at the refugee center, taking charge of daily ESL instruction for 15 - 25 refugees who show up for the class, having arrived in Hartford over the past several months from a half-dozen countries knowing little or no English. Our team has met the challenge, to CC’s delight, in an amazing way!
Catholic Charities leadership has stated how pleased they are with their partnership with AHCC and we are equally pleased with the way we have been welcomed into their extensive, well-organized Migration, Refugee and Immigration Services Program. It’s been a win-win-win: for CC, for AHCC and for our refugee family!
In the fall, we hope to welcome the Naing family and CC staff members to AHCC to worship with us and join in a post-service conversation with our congregation. (And we would love to take the occasion to welcome some new AHCC volunteers to our Committee!) We will also report on a conversation we are beginning with Catholic Charities about the possibility of sponsoring another family.