Reaching out to Refugees in Washington

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The members of Family of Faith Christian Reformed Church of Kennewick, Wash., are helping refugees from Burma thrive in the United States.

In an apartment complex that houses many of the refugees, the church operates the Family Learning Center where clients can get English classes, homework assistance for children, computer coaching, driver’s training, and cooking classes.

SengMun Layang, 18, arrived in the U.S. last summer and began high school in the fall.

She cried on the first day of school because she did not understand what the teachers were saying. Theresa Roosendaal, a teacher at the center, encouraged Layang to stick with it.

With the help of English classes, Layang’s English is improving. “I have begun to believe in myself,” she said. “I am pretty sure I will go to college in a few years.”

Layang is also helping others. She noticed that some of the Burmese women did not know how to turn on a computer. “I want to teach them some basic computer skills and I believe that everybody should know these basic things in this modern age. I hope this will help them to find a job more easily,” she explained.

“Beyond the classes we can offer, we’re very glad that we can be present among our refugee friends, meeting new arrivals, helping out with medical issues, and growing friendships,” explained Roosendaal.

About the Author

Amy Toornstra is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Salem, Oregon.

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