BANGKOK (BP) -- The white gunnysack keeps slipping out of my hands. It didn't feel this heavy when we started walking 20 minutes ago, but now my arms feel like wet noodles in this Bangkok heat and humidity.
Calvary Baptist Church volunteer Kim Amihan grabs the bag from me and lets out a grunt at the weight. I'm convinced we're carrying 70 pounds of rice but it's really just 10, plus spices from South Asia, cookies, canned meat and an odd assortment of extras from the church's "world hunger food closet."
We are taking it to a refugee family but are lost on the backstreets of Bangkok. We definitely look out of place in this Thai neighborhood -- a Filipino, a Brit and two Americans looking for South Asians. Finally, International Mission Board missionary Carrie Chappell spies a smiling William Younus waving to us. He quickly invites us out of the scorching sun and into the oven he calls home.
Two teenage boys pour us glasses of cool water while their preteen brother confiscates extra stools from the neighbors. The four of us sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the open floor space of this tiny concrete room. The boys and their parents squeeze onto the only other available spot, on top of the lone bed crammed into one corner.
This concrete block room is no bigger than a child's bedroom in most American homes, yet a family of five lives here. It isn't quite what you expect when you think of refugee life.
The iconic image of refugees is row upon row of white tents in a sprawling emergency camp, not a dingy apartment in a mega-city. But the reality is that only one-third of the world's 15.4 million refugees live in camps. Like most of the world's population, refugees have steadily moved into cities and towns. Urban refugees are among the fastest-growing population segment globally.
Thousands of people like the Younuses live in Bangkok, where the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees has an office. UNHCR estimates 90 people seek asylum each month in Thailand, fleeing some form of persecution or war.
Thailand is one of the few countries that does not honor the international human rights laws protecting those who flee persecution and seek asylum outside of traditional camps. Instead, urban refugees are considered illegal migrants. Read More