A few years ago I read the book The Middle of Everywhere: The World’s Refugees Come to Our Town, which described some of the trauma that refugees experience. I was moved by stories from the author, Mary Pipher, who is a therapist, about how she helped refugees to better understand their feelings about past hardships and their new life in Omaha, Neb. She carried out some of this work through informal social interactions because the idea of talk therapy was intimidating or foreign to refugees from some cultures.
Once I tutored in English a woman from Afghanistan who had fled the Taliban. For months she was distraught as she obsessed over how to get her mother, sisters, and other relatives to the United States. It seemed that her letter-writing campaigns to international agencies were effective because eventually 16 of her family members came to this country. Also, my husband and I have recently made friends with a young man who was imprisoned and tortured in his home country, Ethiopia.
It’s amazing how some of these people have overcome suffering. But it sure helps the healing process if they have some support--and when it come to refugee children, some of that can occur in school. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is recognizing this need by giving $4.5 million in grants to school-based mental health programs that primarily serve immigrant and refugee children.
The 15 projects receiving the grants include Asian-American Recovery Services, Inc., in the San Francisco Bay area, to serve Vietnamese, and the Family Service Association of Bucks County, in Warminister, Pa., to serve Liberians.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.