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Arpan is a Bhutanese refugee and youth leader. He was born in a refugee camp in Nepal and lived there for 16 years. In 2008, he and his family were resettled in Oakland, CA. 

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RT's clients reflect the diversity of the refugee and immigrant experience in the Bay Area. Our numbers fluctuate, depending on international factors, local resettlement trends, and community needs. 

As of early 2011, our clients receiving weekly home-based instruction originate from*:

  • (69%) Asia / Pacific Islands
  • (12%) Sub-Saharan Africa
  • (7%) Latin America
  • (8%) Middle East
  • (5%) Eastern Europe / Russia

*These percentages do not include our site-based classes, in which a majority of students originate from Latin America.


Refugee Transitions serves a wide array of refugees and low-income immigrants from all over the world, and aims to provide the best support possible to each individual.  However, it is important to note that ever-changing resettlement trends do affect our client demographics and programming.  Currently, the Bay Area is receiving large numbers of the following populations:

Burmese / Karen / Karenni

Resource-rich and fertile, Burma was once regarded as “the rice bowl of Asia.” Under military rule since 1962, its fortunes have steadily declined, and today it is one of the world’s least developed and least free countries. It is also the source of one of the world’s most protracted refugee crises. More than half a million refugees from Burma, also called Myanmar, are in mainly neighboring and nearby countries such as Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and Thailand. Around 150,000 people, mostly ethnic Karen and Karenni, are living in designated camps in Thailand; some have been in these camps for more than 2 decades.  [Excerpted from Refugees from Burma: Their Backgrounds and Refugee Experiences, Cultural Orientation Resource Center, 2007.  To read more, click here.]


The United States has launched a program to resettle tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees from refugee camps in Nepal. The refugees, almost all ethnic Nepalis from southern Bhutan, have been living in camps in eastern Nepal since they were expelled from their homes in Bhutan more than 16 years ago. The refugees are unable to return to Bhutan or to settle permanently in Nepal. [Excerpted from Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal, Cultural Orientation Resource Center, 2007.  To read more, click here.]


A little more than a year after the Liberian civil war broke out in late 1989, the United States initiated its resettlement program for Liberian refugees. Since then, more than 24,000 Liberian refugees have been admitted to the United States. Most of the refugees who entered the United States in the early 1990s were family reunification cases. Many were from the urban areas of Liberia, and most arrived with at least some previous formal education and proficiency in English. In contrast, most recent Liberian arrivals have not had relatives in the United States to help them with their initial adjustment. Many of these Liberians spent more than a decade living in refugee camps in West Africa, and in Liberia most lived in rural areas, where opportunities for schooling—limited in the best of times—virtually vanished during the war years. Many speak little or no English. [Excerpted from Liberians: An Introduction to Their History and Culture, Cultural Orientation Resource Center, 2005. To read more, click here.]


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than four million Iraqis have been displaced by the war in Iraq and its aftermath. Of these, about two million people have found asylum in neighboring countries, where many eke out a marginal living in poor, inner-city neighborhoods, often by working illegally for low wages as laborers, drivers, and restaurant workers. Most Iraqi asylees are living in Syria and Jordan, but Iraqis have also sought asylum in Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. Because most Iraqis are unable to return to Iraq safely or to settle permanently in the countries to which they have fled, Western nations, including the United States, have begun to resettle those refugees who are considered by the UNHCR to be at greatest risk. [Excerpted from Refugees from Iraq, Cultural Orientation Resource Center, 2008. To read more, click here.]


Despite having a small staff working in three locations, RT is able to utilize our dedicated volunteer force—over 250 strong, contributing a total of more than 12,000 community service hours each year—to provide weekly home-based assistance and on-site classes to over 850 clients annually. We have wait lists for all our home-based programs, especially for those targeting youth, and have expanded staff and programming this year to be able to help more clients.


Referrals come from our many partners in the Bay Area, including refugee resettlement agencies (such as International Rescue Committee and Catholic Charities), schools and community-based agencies, and from clients themselves (including an occasional phone call from a child asking for someone to teach his/her parents English).