Week 2: Getting down to business

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Credit: Wikipedia

Hello, blog readers! I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks!  The time has flown by, and I’ve learned so much!

This week, I spent most of my time researching the different cultural groups we have in Central Ohio.  Do you know what countries most of Columbus’ refugee arrivals come from?  I definitely didn’t before starting my Fellowship at CRIS.  The top ten countries of origin for CRIS’ arrivals for FY 2016 were as follows:

  1. Bhutan
  2. Somalia
  3. Iraq
  4. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  5. Burma (officially named Myanmar)
  6. Syria
  7. Eritrea
  8. Ethiopia
  9. Uganda
  10. Afghanistan

It’s been truly enlightening to research and learn more about the aforementioned countries.  Many countries endure such horrible conflicts for indefinite amounts of time and the citizens suffer greatly.  Although the current circumstances of refugees is saddening, learning about several different cultures reaffirms my love of the world and the beauty in diversity.  Furthermore, knowing about the customs and norms of our clients at CRIS is incredibly important so that staff or volunteers working directly with new arrivals can make them feel welcome.  Additionally, familiarity with how people behave reduces the amount of miscommunications.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetOn a separate note, I began volunteering in the CRIS classroom this week.  I will be working there every Monday afternoon from now on.  The class is primarily for recent arrivals and the clients must be adults with dependents (meaning they are the parent or guardian of at least one child under the age of 18).  The students are taught the necessarily skills to obtain a job in the United States.  For many students, this begins with learning to speak English! Many arrivals are educated in their own countries, but are unable to get a job in the U.S. because they cannot communicate effectively in English.  Conversely, a few arrivals are illiterate in their native language, so learning to read and write in English is even more confusing.

On Monday, I worked with an older gentleman and helped him read a book in English.  As I helped him pronounce some of the harder words, I realized how complicated and difficult English truly is!  We have multiple silent letters and letters are pronounced differently depending on the surrounding letters.  I can’t imagine how frustrating it must feel to be living in a new country with a new language, unable to communicate with anyone or figure out what’s going on most of the time.

This weekend is Pride and some people from CRIS will be walking with LGBTI refugees.  Also, we will have a table at the festival, so feel free stop by!

About Katy Nash

I'm a rising Junior at Miami University majoring in International Studies and Economics. This summer, I am a Fellow for the Columbus Foundation at the Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus, Ohio. On this blog, I'll be documenting my experience!
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