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Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

Cultures Meet in Canada

The first Syrian refugee family to land in Toronto (9 Dec 2015). Photo by Domnic Santiago, via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. government recently decided to end temporary protected status of 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the United States and is deciding whether it will do the same for tens of thousands of refugees from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras. As a result, Canada is receiving a new wave of immigrants from those communities and expects these numbers to grow.

In contrast to its southern neighbor, Canada’s government is planning to increase its already generous immigrant acceptance policies and the majority of Canadians are on board. One went so far as to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, and others have participated in family-to-family sponsoring programs.  Such programs have largely been successful, but the struggles they do face often point to the importance of cultural education and understanding. And the more diverse Canadian society becomes, the larger the need becomes for refugees and Canadian citizens alike to learn about the other.

CultureGrams can provide a starting place for groups encountering each other for the first time, including a framework for exploring questions such as the following:

  • What ethnic groups are present in a country?
  • What languages do people speak?
  • What are the most prominent religions? And how might someone’s religious belief affect their daily behavior?
  • What common attitudes and values are shared by people in the country?
  • What do people in the country commonly wear?
  • How do people greet each other?
  • What gestures are potentially offensive?
  • What foods are typically eaten in the country? What customs are there that accompany eating?
  • What games and sports are popular?
  • What family structures and gender roles are common?

Explore these questions in relation to countries like HaitiSyria, and Canada today, in addition to delving into the history, culture, and society of specific Canadian provinces.

Public Libraries Offer Services to Refugees

Edible Alphabet Students

Students of an English-as-a-Second-Language program called Edible Alphabet, offered by the Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (photo used with permission by Liz Fitzgerald, Administrator, Culinary Literacy Center)

According to the U.S. State Department, America has accepted more than three million refugees since 1975. Last year, the U.S. welcomed 84,995 refugees from around the world. Currently, there has been a torrent of court filings over President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. While courts have temporarily blocked Trump’s travel ban, the issue is far from being resolved and may even reach the U.S. Supreme Court. As an editor for SIRS Issues Researcher who works on the Immigration Leading Issue, I am following the multiple angles of this issue closely. Regardless of varying opinions on the current controversy, once refugees enter the United States legally, they often need assistance. I have always been impressed with the amazing services libraries offer the community. So I was curious as to what role libraries play in welcoming refugees who legally enter the United States.

Citizenship Corners

I have learned that libraries across the nation have often been a welcome spot for refugees and immigrants. Through a wealth of immigration services and programming, libraries play an important role in raising awareness about the naturalization process and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship and in helping refugees and other newcomers to the U.S. participate in the broader society.

Since 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services has partnered with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help libraries assist refugees with immigration and citizenship information and resources. As a result of this partnership, hundreds of public libraries have set up areas known as “Citizenship Corners,” which include free brochures and immigration forms.

In addition, in 2015, the American Library Association’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table issued Guidelines for Outreach to Immigrant Populations. These guidelines for library services and programming offer ideas on how to help immigrants adjust to life in their new homeland while preserving their cultural and linguistic heritages.

Free Legal Help, Cooking Classes and More

Two such libraries that are helping immigrants and refugees are the Brooklyn Public Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Brooklyn Public Library offers programs for immigrants in many languages and includes citizenship classes and study groups, bilingual family arts and culture programs and courses to help immigrant businesses succeed. Additionally, the library’s immigration services include free immigration legal help with the Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC). IJC Fellows hold office hours at select branches to help immigrants file applications for citizenship and green cards as well as offer other legal support.

In addition to offering a myriad of immigration and naturalization resources, events and classes, the Free Library of Philadelphia also offers a unique six-week course via their Culinary Literacy Center called Edible Alphabet. The program uses food as a way to unite people from different cultural backgrounds and helps immigrants learn English through cooking lessons. According to Liz Fitzgerald, the Administrator of the Culinary Literacy Center, the meals they prepare include a smoothie, carrot coriander soup, panzanella, pancakes, pasta primavera, and chana masala. The library partners with a non-profit organization called the Nationalities Service Center (NSC), which has been helping immigrants and refugees in the Greater Philadelphia area since the 1920s.

Tell Us Your Story

Does your library offer services to refugees? If so, drop us a line in the comments section below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!