August 6, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman
LOUISVILLE, Ky.

Inside the airy classroom interpreters of a multitude of languages helped translate the importance of balancing family and work.

The refugees from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cuba, Somalia, Sudan and other countries are working to make a new home for themselves in the United States with the help of Catholic Charities in Louisville.

Catholic Charities, in turn, is enlisting the expertise from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service on nutrition, parenting and other aspects of family life. Most recently, Nelda Moore, a Jefferson County Extension agent for family and consumer science presented a program on balancing family and work.

Education director Gaye Horne said her school, operated by Catholic Charities, specifically serves refugees from around the world. There is a nursery, children’s room, a women’s program, teen program and parenting program. There are classes on survival English, career English and computer training. The refugees are from about 10 different countries.

“There are so many things Extension offers that are awesome opportunities for our students,” Horne said. “We’ve had the nutrition program and how they can buy certain things and try to keep them away from the fast food syndrome.

“Some are coming from refugee camps where food is a high commodity and one of the hardest things we have is making them understand that there is food available in this country so you can eat,” she said. “They don’t eat consistently. They also hoard food.”

Amanda Parker, a Jefferson County Extension agent for horticulture, set up a container garden at the center where all the students are involved in some aspect, such as the children watering it.

“They’ve gotten to see things grow instead of being destroyed, so it’s been a really positive experience,” Horne said.

Interpreters are used to get the information from the Extension agents to the students. Then that information is used again in the English classes that help them incorporate it, she said. The educational levels among the refugees vary from no formal schooling to some with high levels of education.

Nelda Moore discussed five points with the students in the cultural orientation class – taking care of yourself, building a support group, positive attitudes, communication and family time.

“I know if they do not have a job, they want a job and want to be able to work and they can forget a little bit about their family,” she said. “So, I want to get them thinking about not forgetting about their families and home responsibilities.”

Part of the federal guidelines is that those who are capable of working must find a job within 90 days, so life is very work oriented and sometimes family does get left out of the loop, Horne said. Yet, there is a lot of care that has to go into finding such things as medical care and a school. So, they have to try and balance that, she said.

Some of the refugees have had to leave families behind and for those, it is important to develop support groups – friends within the community they can turn to for help and in turn offer help to them, Moore said.

“It’s frustrating not knowing the language and the culture,” she said.

Using some of the information from the balancing work and family program can help alleviate some of the stress.

Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Nelda Moore, 502-425-4482; Gaye Horne, 502-636-9263 ext. 354