The first 2 refugee families resettled in Wausau complete their cultural orientation

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – The first two families from Afghanistan to be resettled in Wausau are about to take an important step in their resettlement process. After nearly three weeks in central Wisconsin, they are on schedule to complete the federally required eight-hour cultural orientation and begin English classes.

School-aged children have already registered and started school, with at least one student riding the bus unaided on Tuesday. In the meantime, the adults, plus a young child, gathered around a table at the Marathon County Literacy Council to continue cultural training. Tuesday’s lesson was a bit of a review with some new lessons on transportation in Wausau.

“We have a lot of rules and I forget that because we were presented with them very gradually and now, you know, we have to give them all at once. It’s like a fire hose on them,” said Mary Testin, volunteer coordinator for the tutoring program.

She said families quickly understood and skimmed through the content, although Matiullah Matie, who is fluent in English, said her family found it difficult to learn English on top of these rules. He noted that they are ready for this challenge, however, after their experiences in Afghanistan.

“People have to remember that they don’t use our alphabet in addition to our language and numbers, so this is all new to them,” Testin noted.

Some of the rules in America are the same as in Afghanistan, like which side of the street people should walk on: against traffic.

“People have to walk this path to see the driver and the driver to see it,” Matie said.

Others are nuances to the systems or new lessons, like the driver’s license program and the points system once someone gets their license.

“When you have an accident and it’s your fault, they take so many points off your license,” Testin explained. “If you reach 12 points in five years, your license is cancelled.”

“It’s important,” Matie replied.

They also learned about the bus system, looking at maps to understand how to get around the city, and taking a ride for practice.

“They’ll have a test at the end (the cultural orientation) asking them, you know, questions like, why is it important to learn English? What are some of the rules you have to follow in America? things like that,” Testin said, explaining that they can respond in their native language — Pashto for these families — and have an interpreter if needed.

Once they pass their cultural orientation test, they can start English learning classes, which Testin said she expects to start next week. At the same time, they will welcome newly arrived refugees who will begin cultural orientation.

“It’s going to be a little crazy. We will offer them different levels of English learning.

As this is the first group of refugees to arrive through the new resettlement agency, the Multicultural Community Center – Wausau, Testin said they are still working through the issues and trying to figure out the best way to meet the families’ needs. and federal requirements. . They are working to find a way to have separate classes for men and women, which has been culturally difficult for families all learning in the same space.

All lessons and assistance are designed to help these individuals and families quickly become self-sufficient so they can live their lives in their new homes. Individuals in the class expressed their immense gratitude for the welcome and help they received.

“‘Manana’ means ‘thank you,'” Matie told the volunteers.

With adults still in the process of getting jobs, families noted that if people were looking to help them, they needed bus passes. New Beginnings for Refugees coordinates donations and volunteer assistance for refugees.

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