THE NEED - AFGHANISTAN
Since 2014 the US has provided 14,500 special visas for Afghans who were employed on behalf of the U.S. Government. Many were young men working alongside US soldiers whose lives were endangered. Fearing for their safety as the conflict continued, these young men and their families went through an extensive process to be permitted to relocate to the United States.
The process of screening and applications takes no less than 712 days (as of October 2017). Families receive support for a short period of time - four to six months - from resettlement agencies before they are expected to meet their needs independently. After that brief period of assistance, resettled refugees are solely responsible for all of their expenses and supporting their families. They face the challenge of securing a job that suits their skill set and interests while navigating an unfamiliar culture and language. In addition, this unfamiliarity makes it difficult for resettled Afghan refugees to complete necessary tasks, like scheduling doctors appointments or getting their driver's license, and limit their access to valuable resources. For these reasons and more, there is a strong need to receive cultural and language training beyond their initial period of assistance.
THE NEED - MYANMAR
Civil war has wracked the country of Myanmar for generations. The country, controlled by a military dictatorship, has led brutal campaigns against many of the native ethnic minorities including the Karen (pronouced Ka - Ren) people.
Karen people are the third largest ethnic minority in Burma (Myanmar) with a population of close to 10 million. War broke out shortly after Burma became an independent country. The Burmese military went to the Karen villages and destroyed the houses and buildings, looted belongings, confiscated lands, and burned the crops to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of Karen fled their villages. Many found shelter in the mountainous areas of the Thailand-Myanmar border. Many of those who stayed in the village were massacred. More than 200,000 Karen fled across the board into refugee camps in Thailand through the 1980s and into the present day.
Many waited for years if not decades before having an opportunity to apply for resettlement to another country. Karen people can be found in Scandinavian countries (Norway, Demark, Finland, and Sweden), Australia, New Zealand, and United States.
Resettlement to the US reached its highest levels from 2000 to 2010. Now Karen families live in Minnesota, Texas, and California, and there are about 1,500 individuals who live in Akron, Cleveland, and Lakewood Ohio.
Our goal is to build capacity for self-sufficiency and community engagement of resettled adults through increased language competency and cultural exchange for the future of their families and the Cleveland community.
In 2018, the Refugee Response expanded our services to a new group of Clevelanders: resettled Afghan women. Since 2014 Cleveland has been a major site for families from Afghanistan who have come here to escape conflict and persecution and find a new home. After an extensive feasibility study was conducted in mid-2017, it was identified that there was a tremendous need and desire for a program that would provide culturally appropriate in-home language tutoring for this population of women.
In 2019 the adult tutoring program is expanding to reach even more clients. The program will start by providing tutoring support services to adult Karen (ka-ren) individuals in Lakewood and Cleveland.
The Refugee Response’s Adult Tutoring Program provides one-on-one in-home tutoring to forty female Afghan refugees in Cleveland, Ohio. The Refugee Response pairs each woman with a female volunteer tutor from the community to provide meaningful language and cultural learning support. Learners spend two hours per week with their tutor over the course of a year.
Working closely with learners strengthens their basic literacy and communication skills. They provide personalized support in way that takes into account cultural values, motivations, home environment, gaps in education, language barriers, and other factors. Tutors are encouraged to meet the learners where they are, providing a way forward and the opportunity to experience success through growth and reflection.
In addition to home sessions, tutors and learners are encouraged to attend social gatherings with the cohort of tutors and learners every two months. These gatherings are an opportunity for program members to connect with each other while celebrating Afghan culture and create a fun setting to practice English language skills.
Meet Mo, Rana
and Thomas Kate
The Refugee Response is honored to work with Mohammad and Rana N, an Afghan family who relocated to the US in 2014. Mohammad is an employee of the Refugee Response, and Rana was an early participant in our tutoring program. Now both Mohammad and Rana work to coordinate the Adult Tutoring Program.
Thomas Kate is one of the founding staff of the Refugee Response. As a former refugee from the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar Thomas saw the challenges, hope and successes of the refugees from his community in Cleveland, Ohio.
Read on to learn more about Mo, Rana, and Thomas Kate
Mohammad is an educator, creative problem solver, program & community leader working in a multicultural setting. At the Refugee Response he supervises the Adult Tutoring Program, serving to build self-sufficiency and community engagement of adult refugees through increased language competency and cultural exchange.
Prior to this, Mohammad served 5 years in U.S Armed Forces as linguist and cultural advisor in Afghanistan. Then he came to U.S. in 2014, through an expedited visa process called, Special Immigration Visa (SIV). When he joined the Refugee Response in 2015, he worked 3 years as Farm Site Manager for the Organization, leading and maintaining the learning and community gardens at Urban Community School.
I’m Rana and I came to the U.S with my family in October of 2014 from Afghanistan. My education wasn’t completed when we left Afghanistan because of the war and safety concerns there. Upon arriving in America, I couldn’t write and speak English at all and I felt how important that really was. I wanted to learn the language and immerse myself into the American culture and community as well as to solve my problems. When I enrolled in TRR’s home tutoring program, I was paired with my tutor and immediately knew I would achieve a lot from the opportunity.
Before the tutoring, I could only speak a few words in English like “hi,” “hello,” “sorry,” “bye,” and “thank you.” The first day I met my tutor Mrs. Sandra Sauder, I wanted to have a nice chat with her in English, but couldn’t. However, with the support of TRR and the hard work of Mrs. Sauder, I not only learned English, but much more about American culture and customs. Now I feel confident when I speak and write English, and enjoy talking with people to learn more about them. I’m also very proud after getting my driving permit and license, which my tutor helped me with.
I’m very thankful for TRR and my tutor for the great opportunity they provided me. Now things go smoothly, and I can solve my own problems. I feel comfortable going to my doctor office, shopping and many other day to day tasks. I want to continue my tutoring to become entirely self-sufficient, and help my kids and family. My plan is to work and study hard, so one day I can receive a degree here in U.S, and support all the people in our communities that seek help.
MEET THOMAS KATE
Currently, Khoon Thomas Kate is a program coordinator of scholarship and Adult Tutoring (Karen Community) at the Refugee Response.Mr. Kate was a resettled refugee from Burma, and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for about 12 years.Mr. Kate speaks Karen, Karenni, Thai, Burmese and English languages fluently, and provides translation and interpretation support for families resettled to Cleveland.
Prior to working with The Refugee Response, Mr. Kate was an English Teacher and Extracurricular Program Coordinator in the Karenni Refugee Camp where he and his family lived in Thailand. He had also worked at The Burma Project Education Office, Karenni State Post High School and in other organizations throughout Thailand whereby he provided interpretation of US Homeland Security Department during conducting interview, instructor, and athletic director or served as a student counselor.
Mr. Kate received a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2008 from Rangsit University in Bankok, Thailand.