Neighbors gather to learn more about Burmese on south side of Indy

Instead of spreading animosity or false rumors, neighbors in Perry Township took a step to create a more positive relationship with refugees who live nearby. (WISH Photo/Laura Kennedy)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Members of the Burmese community spoke about their culture and hoped to dismiss what they say are common misconceptions during a neighborhood meeting Thursday.

Instead of spreading animosity or false rumors, neighbors in Perry Township took a step to create a more positive relationship with refugees who live nearby.

They used a planned neighborhood watch meeting to host the informational session.

“A lot of what we’ve dealt with is just clearing up the myths that most the people have about it,” Southport Police Chief, Thomas Vaughn said.

He has been working with the Burmese refugee community for a couple years.

He presented at the Perry Township meeting as part of ongoing community outreach.

“The way you make friends is learning more about the people around you,” resident, Terry Machowski said.

She invited the police chief as well as other guests to answer questions about the growing Burmese population in South Indy.

“Do they pay taxes? Do they have jobs?” she said.

Those are two common questions, both answered Thursday night.

Chief Vaughn said that the Burmese pay taxes, abide by American laws, and are required to get jobs to maintain their residence.

They also clear a health screening and come to the U.S. legally through charities like Exodus.

“A lot of them don’t think they’re here legally, they think they’re here illegally, so there’s a lot of questions about that,” he said.

Aside from questions like those, the meeting was meant to be a learning opportunity to help neighbors understand each other.

Lun Pieper is a Marion County Deputy Prosecutor and is of Burmese descent.

“I think it’s very important to kind of know each other’s culture and try to help answer some questions or just let them know a little bit about our culture,” she said.

“I would like people to have harmony and know more about it so that there’s not prejudice and that we learn more about each other,” Machowski said.

If you’d like the Southport Police Department to speak with your community group, just give them a call at (317) 787-7595.