Community Volunteers Help Refugees to Learn about American Culture

April 14, 2016 Volunteer Stories
The Expanded Cultural Orientation Program is a new initiative through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and AmeriCorps. The program is designed to provide assistance to newly arrived refugees who are in the first 90 days of their resettlement and is being offered at Ascentria’s Services for New Americans office in Westfield, MA. The program teaches refugees about US culture, the English language, laws, healthcare, safety, banking, employment, housing and other important aspects of life in the USA.

There are many volunteers involved in this program who share their experiences and knowledge with the refugees. In fact, it is the volunteers that are the true backbone of the program. Olga Crowley, an immigrant from the Ukraine, is one such volunteer who believes in the program’s importance. Olga shares, “As a recent immigrant myself, I see a great value in programs like cultural orientation for the new members of our community. Ascentria provides services for people of various cultural and social backgrounds. Lack of knowledge about American culture, social norms, as well as the ways this society functions can not only put the newcomers in uncomfortable situations, but also compromise their safety and security. I believe it is critical to provide the people who are making this country their new home, with all the information needed to help their adaptation and integration into the American society.”

Lynne Knudsen is another volunteer in our program and a former college professor. She also finds value in her experiences with the Expanded Cultural Orientation Program. Lynne explains, “Each day, as I see the news reports about refugees and their struggles to leave their war torn homelands to come here to create a new life, I feel a deep empathy for them and want to make their plight easier here in our country. I am so impressed with the work of Ascentria—the Cultural Orientation classes have been beautifully conceived and developed and I enjoy teaching them so that our new refugees can feel pride in their understanding of our culture, and hopefully, their participation in it, which is the true meaning of democracy.”

We are always looking for new volunteers, for more information please visit Ascentria’s website at:!