Like a lot of newcomers, Jason Hicks was a bit flummoxed by his first visit to the Shadow Tree apartments last year. The complex, just a short stroll off East Colfax in Aurora, is home to a growing number of refugee families, relocated from places like Nepal and Burma and Somalia. It's a population that remains largely invisible to most metro-area residents, a cluster of otherness separated from the larger community by barriers of language and culture and the thick walls of I-225, which runs like a concrete curtain right across the street.
Hicks, a 33-year-old electrician and former PE teacher, had come to Shadow Tree to check out a program he'd heard about through his church; volunteers had been scrounging bicycles for the refugee kids and showing up regularly at the apartments to repair them. Hicks thought that sounded cool. But when he first entered the Shadow Tree complex, he felt like he was crossing an international border.
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