9Who Care recipient lives in heart of refugee community

12:48 PM, Oct 4, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - If home is where the heart is, then for 28-year-old Derek Enns, you'll find both in an unlikely neighborhood off of East Colfax. 

"What I see with this population is a lot of resilience," CU-Denver student Enns said. 

At the end of the day of classes, Enns doesn't come home to a dorm room. He prefers to call the apartments that house almost solely refugees from third-world countries, home.

"It's actually relaxing to come home to something different, something more community oriented," Enns said. "It's close knit because they're all in a strange situation. And they're all struggling in their own ways."

Spend a few hours with Derek and you'll realize, it's not just where he chooses to live. Everything he does is for this community of refugees from Burma. 

"They were living in a horrible situation in Burma. They've fled that to go to refugee camps. They spend 10 to 15 years in refugee camps, and they finally get the opportunity to come here. The parents don't do it for themselves; they do it for their kids. It's an incredible sacrifice and an incredible love."

A year and a half ago, Derek was just returning from a three-year stay in Thailand.

He was looking for a place to go to physical therapy school and a place to call home. That's when he met Frank Anello, director of "Project Worthmore."

Project Worthmore is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for Denver-area refugees from Burma by providing cultural mentorship and community support.

There are more than 130 ethnic groups in Burma that come to the United States with little to no knowledge of the language or culture. 

"I had never met a volunteer that said, 'Hey, find me an apartment in the community where they live, because I want to live my life with them," Anello said of Enns. 

And so it is there, in a crowded block of apartments, where Enns does extraordinary things that may seem so simple. 

Like showing a family how to check their mail and use the thermostat. Other days, he teaches them how to ride the bus to get to work and the grocery store. 

Enns met Qurshidah Nurul Amin a year ago when she came to Denver with her family from Burma.

She hardly knew any English, but now, she proudly shows off her honor roll certificates from school when Enns visits.

She wants to become a doctor. 

"They are really supportive of us to do better in the future," Nurul Amin said. 

But simply because her family has settled in to American life doesn't mean Enns has stopped coming by to visit. 

"The friendship is where the help really comes from - the true help," he said.

With small steps, Enns has made an enormous impact on the community.

"Most people feel in order to work with different cultures you have to cross the ocean. In reality you just need to cross the street," Anello said. 

"I'm inspired to help these people get started because I feel they have a lot to offer the U.S." Enns said.

For more information on Project Worthmore, visit: http://www.projectworthmore.org/home.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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