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Amarillo’s first ever refugee state of union addresses gap between group and community at large

Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 9:44 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) -Amarillo refugees still face a gap between their groups and the overall community.

The Refugee Language Project hosted the first ever state of the union to address the changes needed to close that gap.

The Director of the organization, Dr. Ryan Pennington, says they want to create an environment where these individuals play a larger role in Amarillo, and began by asking refugees what they need.

They were surprised to find some of the interests were not being addressed by the programs they already offer.

“One was about the development of a multicultural center here in Amarillo, and another one was about business ideas and ow to help people start new businesses,” said Pennington

He adds places of worship are incredibly important for these communities but many are having to borrow other church spaces.

The proposed multicultural center would help bring together the several different nationalities within the refugee community.

At the moment, most work in the local meat packing plants, and although they are grateful for these jobs, they expressed a yearning for upward mobility.

“Families are struggling as both spouses work on opposite shifts, long hours at a factory,” said Pennington “So, they are asking are their ways for one member to step out and create a small business to help support that and divert some of the energy to their family, which is the american dream.”

That is where tweaking programs that already exist like an English language class to one that specifically address these needs, like a business class that along the way also teaches English, would be more beneficial.

He adds that engaging local leaders is essential and invited the Chief of Police, and Mayor Ginger Nelson to hear the address.

“Again, it is about recognizing that these folks are already part of our community and we need to take advantage of bringing their viewpoints to the table,” said Mayor Nelson.

She adds that helping people who were born and raised here know there are avenues to learn more, will only benefit the city.

The Refugee Language Project will be creating a council composed of leaders within the different nationalities represented among the refugees to establish a direct line of communication with local city officials and further that integration process.

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