Refugees arriving in Philadelphia from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, are ethnic minorities who have been forcibly exiled from the country. They include primarily the Chin and Karen ethnic groups, as well as smaller numbers of Karenni and Mon. News reports out of Burma have documented traumatic events such as forced labor and relocation, the killing of family members, and the use of rape as a weapon in the Burmese army’s campaign of ethnic warfare. Rates of depression and anxiety are very high in the Burmese populations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended that innovative behavioral health and psychosocial programs – such as community-based rather than facility-based programs – be implemented among Burmese refugees resettled in the United States.
The Burmese art group, led by Natalie Hoffman started with 14 children in the Fall of 2012. Since that time, the group has nearly 75 children, 49 of which attended during calendar year 2014.