Thursday, August 21, 2008

World Relief Hit Again

Copper Thieves Hit Refugee Help Group

Posted By: Julie Wolfe

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- Inside the Stone Mountain headquarters of World Relief Atlanta, the doors and windows are open wide. They're hoping for a summer breeze that still hasn't arrived.

A look outside explains their hopes. Seven out of ten air conditioning units are gutted. Thieves stole all the copper Tuesday night. A HVAC maintenance man discovered the missing parts Wednesday morning.

"My first reaction was, oh no, not me," World Relief Atlanta director Brian Burt said. "Then it turns to frustration. We feel like we're doing a good thing in the community."

Maybe those copper thieves didn't know the faces of their victims the way Burt does.

World Relief helps refugees adjust to American life: find an apartment, get a job, and become self-sufficient.

Richard Crotteau is a World Relief volunteer. He's been working with the Dahal family since they arrived in the United States about three months ago.

They are originally from Bhuta, a small land-locked nation in South Asia. They are among the 125,000 Bhutanese people forced to leave the country due to discriminatory practices of the current government.

The Dahal family spent 17 years in a Napal refugee camp. "We had no freedom," one of the brothers explains. "We had to stay in the camp or be threatened." They came to the United States as refugees and have already started building their American dreams.

The younger children are enrolled in Dekalb County schools. The older children are making plans to attend college next fall. All are taking English classes.

World Relief Atlanta estimates it will cost about $35,000 to replace the stolen air conditioning units. Insurance will cover some of the cost. Every penny spent there is money not spent on the refugees.

Burt said he's seen the rash of copper thefts targeting schools, churches, and other non-profit groups throughout the summer: "That's part of my frustration. It seems like those targeted by this crime seem to be doing some of the best work in the community, but we're also the most vulnerable."