Karen and Karenni refugees from Burma, also called Myanmar, began moving into Delta in late spring of 2012.
Their numbers continued to grow over the summer of 2012 and their children settled into Delta's elementary, middle and high schools as the school year began.
Those enrollments are down for 2013.
In September 2012 the total number of Karen and Karenni students enrolled in Delta was 76 — 40 students in P-5, 14 in 6-8 and 22 in grades 9-12.
As the 2012-2013 school year ended in May, three students had graduated Delta High School, 10 students had moved within the state, seven students had moved out of state and one student had "exited" to a correctional facility in Grand Junction.
Enrollment for 2013-14 is 56 students — 28 in P-5, eight in 6-8 and 20 at Delta High School.
The Karen residents who came to Delta were resettling from other places in the United States, including the Denver metropolitan area, Texas and Utah.
The congregation at Delta First Baptist Church has worked closely with the new residents, helping them settle into housing, tutoring students and adults, and participating in joint worship services. Delta First Baptist Pastor James Conley says, "In all the events where we gather together, we work to come together as an incorporated body of Christ, one body in Christ."
Anna Aldava-Chavez is the property manager at Alta Vista de la Montana apartments, where many of the families found housing. To lease an apartment at Alta Vista, the tenant family must earn 65% of its annual income from agricultural work. The apartments are rented by other agricultural workers as well as Karen families.
Pastor Conley says that during the summer of 2013 the Karen families peaked at 30 families at Alta Vista. Now there are about 20 Karen families there. Some of the families went back to Denver — or where they were living when they moved to Delta — to be near other family members or to find winter work, he said.
It is very hard to find agricultural work in Delta during the winter, but some residents at Alta Vista have found fulltime jobs at Foster Farms.
Dave Brennan, complex manager at Foster Farms in Delta, said he has hired six or seven Karen residents. "It's been a successful endeavor. I am happy to have them, happy to have a new resource for labor," Brennan said.
John Harold said he planted zucchini and yellow squash this year which was ready for harvest earlier than his usual labor from Mexico arrives. He did so knowing there was availability of labor locally, namely the Karen residents. "Their work ethic was fine but the language barrier, their lack of understanding English, was a hindrance," Harold said.
Pastor Conley said the Karen families that have remained in Delta "are working on their English and filling out applications for Foster Farms." He said finding year-round agricultural work will help stabilize the Karen community.
Delta First Baptist established an English tutoring program last year to aid the Karen community but it is open to anyone who wants to learn and/or improve their knowledge of English. The sessions are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 6 p.m., at the church, 1250 Pioneer Road. Tutoring is available in sessions of one-on-one, one-to-two, and separate sessions for elementary through high school students.
Classes are also available through Delta County Libraries and at the Delta Center, 822 Grand Avenue.blog comments powered by Disqus