My KDL Story: Bethany Christian Services Refugees

"When refugees resettle in the United States, they must learn about American culture and expectations in a short amount of time. [At the library] they are allowed access to so many things they wouldn't be allowed in their home countries: knowledge, books, and relationships with people who are looking out for them..."

Bethany Christian Services Refugees

For many visitors to the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) branch, Kent District Library serves as a gateway to many resources they need to start a new way of life.

Since November, two groups from the Bethany Christian Services Refugee Resettlement Program have toured the branch. Bethany's West Michigan resettlement program helps some 600 refugees annually — people who have fled their home countries because they fear for their safety. In recent years, refugees served by Bethany have come to the area largely from Iraq, the African Congo and Bhutan, in South Asia.

Emily Granger, an AmeriCorps VISTA member who works with Bethany's employment department, helps match refugees with community service work required to qualify for financial assistance. Her department also teaches job readiness skills that prepare them to search for and secure employment, where they practice English, role-play interviewing techniques and search and apply for jobs online.

With limited or no access to computers at home, the library is a vital part of the job search for many refugees, Granger explained.

"It's a regular part of empowering them to make them aware of all the materials they have access to through the library. We're trying to build self-sufficiency."

But Granger said the library's usefulness to those new to the U.S. doesn't end with job-searching resources.

"When refugees resettle in the United States, they must learn about American culture and expectations in a short amount of time," she said. "[At the library] they are allowed access to so many things they wouldn't be allowed in their home countries: knowledge, books, and relationships with people who are looking out for them."

 

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