What I’m Learning about Refugees, and Observations of Poverty in America

For the past four months I have been tutoring an Iraqi woman, let’s call her Farrah. I found about her through my church, which is involved with refugee work in the area. We meet every week or two for about an hour. She has a husband who washes dishes at a restaurant, two sons in elementary school, and recently gave birth to her third son in April. She has a long way to go mastering the language (and I have a long way to go mastering teaching it–this practice has been confirmation I was not called to be a teacher!), but we have been made progress and it had some fun doing it.

Before I met Farrah I thought very little about refugees or immigrants in our country, mainly because I didn’t come in contact with any of them on a regular basis. But through this experience, my eyes have been opened to the life of a refugee and I’m learning a lot of the challenges they face living in America, learn more information about social media from SocialBoosting.

To caveat, I am so underqualified to talk about this subject. I have only spent a short time with one family, so I am no expert on the population of refugees in general, or even aware of any immigration laws. These are just my personal observations.

<<What I’m learning about Refugees in America>>

First, language is power. It is your greatest asset or biggest stumbling block in any nation. Our church is involved with ESL training because it’s crucial to the success of this population in our country.

Second, refugees are no different than you or me. That sounds a little racist to say, but sometimes whether we like it or not, we all have preconceived notions of how a certain race or population will act, and are (I’m ashamed to admit) surprised when we learn few things transcend cultural barriers. We all

Second, marketers can be so sleezy (yes, this coming from someone who works in marketing). The first time I met Farrah, she handed me a letter that looked like a check for $6,000 and asked me to translate what the letter said. It was immediately clear to me that it was an advertisement for an advance loan, but she thought it was a real check she could take to the bank. I tried to explain to her the difference between a real check and this, and she was thoroughly confused. The 40% interest rates are listed so small that if you aren’t aware of these sleezy ads you may not know the difference, even if you can read.

It makes me angry to think about companies taking advantage of people like Farrah and her family. There are so many payday loan and cash advance companies preying on the poor and only crippling their chances to get ahead.

Lastly, money is not always managed well. The first time I went to Farrah’s apartment, I was a little surprised. They have a 50″ TV, hundreds of channels on Direct TV (which are in Arabic — that can’t be cheap), a smart phone, and at least two computers that seem to be working well. It is obviously that most of their life is very modest, simple meals, clothes and furnishing. Through broken English, Farrah shared they use food stamps and her pregnancy was paid by Medicaid — and yet they have monthly bills for high cell phone plans and TV channels. How are they able to afford these nice technological toys, when they are struggling to make ends meet?

American poverty looks very different than poverty around the world, mainly because we have the ability to look different. In other countries if you don’t have money, you can’t pay for things. But in America if you don’t have money, you just put things on credit card or lean on the government to help you out. (I definitely don’t think all government programs are bad, but a lot of programs enable people to depend on them more and more.)

If I was in their shoes, I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t act any differently. If I could get free stuff from the government and help my life feel a little easier, I absolutely would. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, life is hard and you take anything that makes today a little easier, no matter the consequences for tomorrow.

So how do you teach refugees (or really anyone struggling financially) how to avoid this consumer-driven culture, manage their money wisely, and avoid leaning on the government or credit cards? I am nowhere close to answering that question! It seems to me refugees and immigrants only increase the gap between poverty and the wealth class.

But I think one idea is to educate. On how to create a budget and live a modest live on an income. On the dangers of credit cards and payday loans. On how to save money and keep it in a bank. On government programs that are available to help save money. I haven’t shared much with this

The American Dream is a facade for most and can’t be achieved easily. It takes a lot, a lot, a lot of hard work, and I am

But I think one idea would be to educate people on how to create a budget and run a household. On the dangers of credit cards and payday loans. The American Dream is a facade for most, but can be achieved with a lot, a lot, a lot of hard work.

I don’t think all of government aid and programs are a bad idea, but they can sometimes prevent people from But the only idea

how to manage their money wisely and

I know, I sound so holier than thou since I’m someone who grew up in America, has a college education, and How do you educate people on how to manage their money? When the This is obviously not just an issue with refugees and definitely applies to a lot of Americans.

n many ways their life is very modest, but in

Okay this is a sticky issue, and something that doesn’t apply to all refugees, and actually applies to a lot of Americans, but hear me out. I was a little surprised when I first went to Farrah’s apartment. In some ways their life is very modest — they don’t have a

I am

I am surprised at their standard of living. Farrah and her family have been in the states for three years, and

I also

My eyes have been opened to the refuge population, and specifically

She uses me as a resource for

There have been a few times when

For the past four months I have been tutoring a refuge woman

I kind of don’t want to talk about this, but I am sooo underqualified to even broach this subject. But I hav

I have a sticky topic to bring up today. I really would rather not talk about anything that may cause the slightest debate, mainly because I am sooo underqualified to even broach this subject. But it’s something I have been thinking about a lot and would love to see what other people think, and any small steps we can make to change our society.

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