Refugees face barriers in rural N.C.

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Fayetteville Observer

LUMBERTON – Say Reh stared through smudged glass as the rusted yellow school bus carried him past rolling tobacco fields, hollowed-out farmhouses and rows of mobile homes. This isn’t the America the 25-year-old read about as a child, growing up in a bamboo hut on the other side of the world.

The suffocating stench of raw meat and sweat mingled in the muggy midday air. He clutched a pair of rubber work boots and gazed out the window, watching fields and trees flash by.

Say Reh is one of more than 400 refugees from the Karenni state of Myanmar who have settled in Robeson County in the past 10months. The bus was carrying him and about 40 others home after a morning shift at the Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant in Lumber Bridge.

This existence – slicing up chickens for next to minimum wage in rural North Carolina – isn’t what Say Reh imagined almost two years ago when he boarded a plane in Thailand, bound for a new life in the United States. It isn’t what many of the refugees expected. Continue reading “Refugees face barriers in rural N.C.”