Locals reach out to refugees by forming friendships

Caleb Benningfield helps Po Khu, a Burmese refugee, during a Bible lesson on Saturday Nov. 2. Benningfield has been visiting refugees in their apartments on Lovers Lane for three months, although he and his wife Laura have been friends with them much longer. "Its helped me be more appreciative of everything we have in America," said Benningfield.

Caleb Benningfield helps Po Khu, a Burmese refugee, during a Bible lesson on Saturday Nov. 2. Benningfield has been visiting refugees in their apartments on Lovers Lane for three months, although he and his wife Laura have been friends with them much longer.

“I learned a lot about their story, about how they got here,” said Caleb Benningfield.

Caleb and Laura Benningfield, members of Living Hope Baptist Church have been helping a group of Burmese refugees in any way they can, primarily through their Bible and English lessons on weekends.

“Its helped me be more appreciative of everything we have in America,” said Caleb Benningfield.

Benningfield has been doing these lessons for three months, and his wife, Laura Benningfield, has been working with them for a year.

While the small group of Burmese refugees is Christian, they have difficulties participating in conventional Sunday services due to language barriers.

The students, who are adults in their twenties, include Po Po, Po Khu, his wife Ka Tay and other students. Po Po speaks English quite well and is able to explain vocabulary words to her friends. Po Khu may be an aspiring pastor for his people, and Ka Tay is trying to get her driver’s license. All the students listened intently to the lesson, which covered Bible stories like the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

Christianity is practiced by 4 percent of the population in Burma, and is said to face persecution by the more powerful majorities in the country.

The lesson concluded with a prayer beseeching God for protection of one of the students, who is pregnant and expecting a child soon. Benningfield also asked for the strength to finish a marathon that he would be participating in the following day.

“It’s just been a fun way to develop a friendship with them,” said Benningfield.

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Bowling Green Burmese Refugees Support each Other

This week I spoke with Vung Dim of the Bowing Green International Center. My interview with Dim focused on gaining more information about why Burmese refugees particularly settle in Bowling Green, and why they choose to live in the Lover’s Lane apartment complex. I also gained some insight into how diverse language is within Burma, as not everyone from Burma speaks Burmese.

When she lived in Texas, Dim volunteered as a translator and interpreter for people from Burma. She decided she wanted to go into this as a job.

Currently at her job at the Bowling Green International Center, Dim works as a scheduler while helping out with translation and interpreting as needed.

One thing that Dim wanted to get across in our discussion was that not everyone from Burma speaks the same language.

“Not everyone speak Burmese,” said Dim. “They have their own language and dialect.”

Burma is very diverse in terms of the languages people speak. One of the things Dim does is decide which language someone speaks based on their name. “I am Zo,” said Dim. “I belong to Chin.” Zomi is a language within Chin, which is a group of people who live within Burma.

Burma gained its named from the Burmese who make up the majority in Burma. Although many minorities live within Burma the name stuck over time.

“We cannot just change,” said Dim. “We cannot change it easily.”

When I asked Dim about why Burmese refugees choose to settle in the Lover’s Lane apartments she had the following to say.

Burmese refugees, just like everyone else, seek out people like them, because community is so important in our lives.