Refugee Increase in Rockford

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

Such a fascination with a child's toy is just part of the culture shock for Eh Say Wah and his family. They're originally from Burma and spent the last ten years cramped in a Thailand refugee camp.

"When I was in refugee camp we had a lot of trouble. We cannot go outside we couldn't get a job and we cannot have good school so when I came here I was very happy," says Eh Say Wah.

Catholic Charities moved the family of five to Rockford in September. About 250 refugees have come to Rockford so far this year. Which is about double the amount brought in the past.

"We weren't expecting so many but because we had to wait so long for some groups to get here there was an influx in the U.S.," says Amy Massoth, Program Director of Refugee and Immigration Services at Rock Valley College.

Those groups are from Myanmar or Burundi in Africa. Refugee and Immigration Services help such newcomers find housing, learn English and teach them basic skills.

"The refugees have been very successful here. There's a large manufacturing industry here they're finding jobs assisting the community," Massoth says.

Eh Say makes $8.50 an hour working part time at Aramark. Massoth says his English skills will help weed him off support programs since he's expected to be self-sufficient within the next three years.

Catholic Charities help some refugees pay the first few months worth of bills. But after that, they're on their own. About 80-thousand refugees are allowed into the United States each year.


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