Caleb and Laura Benningfield have learned so much from their friendship with their Karen friends.
“I guess I’ve just had a change of perspective,” said Laura Benningfield. “I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more out of them than they’ve gotten out of me.”
“It’s given me a lot of perspective on how blessed I am to be in the position I’m in,” said Caleb Benningfield. “Growing up the way we grew up is a blessing in itself.”
Their friendship is an example of the good that can happen when people of different backgrounds teach each other. In the time they’ve known each other, the Benningfields have noticed changes for the better in the lives of their refugee friends, especially the women.
“I see a willingness to try new things, a willingness to speak out,” said Laura Benningfield. “Whereas before, some of the women may have been too timid to do any of those things.”
However, life for their friends Po Po, Po Khu and Ka Tay wasn’t always so certain.
“Some of them still have family back in the refugee camps,” said Caleb Benningfield.
Po Khu spoke about his life in the refugee camps of Thailand, which currently host 84,900 registered refugees, and the food shortages he had to deal with among other problems.
One of Laura’s greatest joys is sharing simple western customs like baby showers, trick or treating, birthdays or even just baking cookies.
“It’s just a simple pleasure of life that they’ve never had,” said Laura.
As for the future, the Benningfield’s plans center on continuing to learn English, nutrition, citizenship and teaching their friends to drive. They have also expressed interest in finding a preacher that speaks the same language as their friends. Primarily though, their goals are aimed at helping them assimilate into American culture, Caleb Benningfield said.