Local non-profit easing culture shock for East African immigrants

Local non-profit easing culture shock for East African immigrants

Aina Swartz and Aina Swartz

Moving to another country is not easy – the culture shock, the anxiety, and the sense of isolation is hard to cope with. For East African immigrants and refugees, this change is especially challenging due to the vast culture differences they experience. Luckily, refugee resettlement non-profits like Horn of Africa Services (HOAS), have begun popping up in the greater Seattle area within the recent decades.

For over 20 years, HOAS has been aiding East Africans in their resettlement to the United States, helping them understand and assimilate to the American culture whilst remaining true to their ethnic backgrounds. The organization provides educational services, such as after-school tutoring and English language classes, for immigrant children who may be struggling to keep up in school. “Our youth programming is primarily focused on education and community development,” said Nat Neville, the After School Summer Program Coordinator at HOAS. “This is critical because the academic achievement gap is very significant for youth of color, especially refugee and immigrant youth.”

According to Neville, this achievement gap can have long term effects, such as college dropout rates and employment opportunities. The HOAS Tutoring Program works to reduce that academic gap from an early age, preparing East African children for college and beyond.

HOAS also offers help finding jobs, dealing with emotional trauma, and assisting newly-resettled Africans with housing and green card applications. To overcome possible language barriers, staff are fluent in the East African languages of Amharic, Oromiffa, Tigrinya, and Somali.

While many of the volunteer positions at HOAS, like the after-school tutoring program, have an age requirement of 18, the non-profit also offers volunteer opportunities for people and families of all age groups. For example, their supply drives and fundraisers have no volunteer age limit, and the volunteer position of storyteller for the young children is also open to all ages.

In a time of civil wars and mass migrations, it is encouraging to realize that there are organizations like HOAS helping immigrants and refugees settle into their new lives. While some news outlets may present these people as a threat of our nation’s security, HOAS is doing their part in welcoming our new neighbors, and we should do the same.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Horn of Africa Services