GOOD NEWS: Local project helps refugees in Amarillo

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 9:56 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - A language barrier can make adjusting to life in a new place very difficult, but a local project is breaking down those barriers.

Refugee Language Project is finding some new and exciting ways to help local refugees transition into society.

Imagine being dropped in a place where nobody understands you and you don’t understand anybody else.

Imagine the complexities of trying to communicate and take care of every day life.

That is exactly the situation for many refugees that wind up in the Amarillo community and where the Refugee Language Project becomes a life changing resource.

“We’ve been working with refugees since 2017. We found the Refugee Language Project here in Amarillo with the goal of building deep relationships with individuals for each refugee community,” said Refugee Language Project Founder and Executive Director Ryan Pennington

He knows himself what it is like to struggle in a different culture.

“That’s born from our experience overseas where people came into our homes and welcomed us even when we couldn’t speak their language,” Pennington said.

The Refugee Language Project aims to come alongside and embrace people brand new to our society.

“This is a place that they can come grab tea or coffee, join a language class, get some help filling out paperwork. Our goal is to build trust with them and to pull them into a personal relationship with someone in our community,” Pennington said.

The project has developed a very unique and effective method of teaching English – it uses the actual personal stories of some of the refugees in the program written in story book form.

“One thing we have noticed is that many people are wanting to learn to read and write, but they have few materials written in their languages worldwide,” he said. “We are working to collect the life stories of many of Amarillo’s refugees, illustrating them from people from their nation and helping to create books that honor their experiences.”

As language skills develop, the program also offers assistance in fundamentals that help to ensure self sufficiency.

“As they build trust and go into their home, we help them integrate by teaching them language, but also by understand culture in Amarillo, how to find a job, learn to drive, you name it. We’re here for them,” Pennington said.

“As they get involved and are served by us. We say ‘hey, come join us at a potluck dinner on a Tuesday night. Come make friends with someone who shows up.’ So we start to treat them like equals and we have them get up in front and teach us about their culture,” Pennington said.

The efforts here allow people from all over the world to settle into Amarillo, make friends, kind of get into the American culture and learn English at the same time.

That’s some good news.

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