Refugees find asylum in Western Colorado

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DELTA, Colo. It’s a life on the run for the millions of refugees fleeing their homes.

According to the United Nations more than 42,000 people were displaced each day in 2014, the largest refugee crisis the world has seen. For some seeking asylum, Western Colorado is now home.

"All things changed for me because when we live in our village, we don’t have nothing. Now we arrive here, we have our car, we have a big house, everything is okay," said Naw Abay Htoo, a refugee from Myanmar, who now lives in Delta, Colorado.

Refugees like Htoo fled from Myanmar, formally known as Burma, a nation kept under military dictatorship until 2011. She part of the ethnic minority Karen. Karen have been the target of torture, rape and murder by the Myanmar military regime.

"The government come and take our village, and we didn't have any place to stay. No village, no house, so we move,” said Htoo.

Their village was burned to the ground. Many families who survived, fled to Thailand, until the Colorado Refugee Services program assisted in relocating them to the United States.

The refugees now work on local farms in Delta, Colorado, and live in the agricultural subsidized housing complex, Alta Vista De La Montaña.

"Very different everything, house, stove, city, country," said refugee Lae Seri.

Since 2007, the Colorado Refugee Services Program has welcomed almost 4,000 Myanmar refugees into the state. Having found safety, these refugees are now in search of a better life for their families.

"Even though with refugee status they are legal, there is still a lot more that needs to be done to learn how to function in a community so radically different," said Gail Srebnik, who organizes free English classes for the refugees through the Delta County Library.

"When it was obvious that this group of refugees was settling here, the literacy program found a strong need to be here," said Srebnik.

Alta Vista De La Montaña Property Manager, Randall Taylor, says Myanmar refugees fill more than half of the complex, which now, offers the free English classes from the building’s community room.

“They’ve helped a lot of families acclimate to the culture, and communicate a little bit better in Delta," said Taylor.

"The people who live here are anxious to improve their skills, some to find work, others to communicate with their kid's teachers, and deal with all kinds of things that come up with being a resident in a place," said Srebnik.

Twice a week the refugees receive tutoring, helping them to obtain their GED and adapt to American society.

"In America if we had to go to the office, hospital, and school, we need understand and speak. Now we start English a little bit," said Seri.

As a developing country, in November, Myanmar participated in the country’s first democratic elections in more than 25 years.

As an American citizen, Htoo hopes to return to Myanmar. A place she once called home.

"When we live in our country, we have friends. We talk together, we went to church together, we happy, and now we arrive here and they live in Myanmar and we pray for them," said Htoo.

Praying for those friends she left behind. Hoping they too will soon have a better life

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