As massive demonstrations and protests against severe military rule in Burma caused more unrest, Nandar and her husband fled. A government crackdown had Burmese living in fear after some 200 people were killed and many more arrested.
“My husband went to the demonstrations and they (shot) the people participating in it,” said Nandar, a 34-year-old mother of two. “That’s why my husband ran to Thailand.”
She soon followed, and they spent 45 days at a refugee camp in the neighboring country before the United Nations sent them to Denver in 2009.
Adjusting to a new life and raising two children on one income was hard for the couple. Nandar heard about Gabriel House in Denver and sought assistance with getting supplies for her children.
“I can’t afford to buy that many diapers. My husband is the only one working in the family now,” said Nandar, while putting shoes on her 2-year-old son.
She found friendly faces and plenty of supplies—diapers, baby food, lotion, blankets—to help with her daughter and son. Nandar said she found a new community who knows her and her family.
Kristin Yaneff, an on-site coordinator for Gabriel House, said the locations have seen more and more refugee and immigrant families seeking assistance for their children—and a supportive community.
In February, its Denver location served nearly 50 percent Asian families and 45 percent Hispanic. At the Gabriel House in Aurora, staff saw 23 percent Middle Eastern and white families and 19 percent Asian. The Boulder Gabriel House location reports serving Hispanic families that comprise 68 percent of its clients.
Gabriel House has found more Middle Eastern families arrive from Iraq or Afghanistan, and Asian families from Thailand and Burma.
“We use this time to ask how they’re doing, how they came here,” Yaneff said. “Some recently came to Colorado and some have been here for 10 years. We strive to understand them and help them in any way with a new job or a new life. They’re very thankful for it.”
Nandar is one of the thankful families who likes to give back. She began helping Gabriel House by translating for other Burmese families who sought services. She also translates for local families attending an on-going nutrition class held at its Denver location.
“I help them and they help me,” Nandar said. “I like to help others at Gabriel House now.”
Learn more about services and locations by visiting ccdenver.org/gabriel-house.
11 Gabriel House locations
19,000 clients served between 2015-2016
307,640 diapers given to struggling mothers
*2016 Catholic Charities annual report