How does Church World Service Harrisonburg help newcomers integrate into their new community? When new refugees arrive, we begin by providing them with a basic orientation to our services and to key topics such as employment, health, and education.
Within a week or two of arrival, new refugees are all invited to attend our 4 week Cultural Orientation class, which meets three times a week and covers basic English as well as cultural information important for newcomers. The Cultural Orientation Class is mix of ESL and cultural orientation topics which are required for all of our new arrivals. We talk about topics like housing and health, education, finances, jobs, and more. It’s very hands-on and the class often goes on “field trips” around town. Helping with this class is one of the easiest ways to get involved with our office. Volunteers will pick at least one day a week to be involved and are expected to commit to either one semester at a time or 3 months at a time. (extended volunteer opportunities with the Cultural Orientation class are available). After newcomers finish their cultural orientation, we make sure to refer them to the many other English language schools in the area so that they can continue learning English, which is a vital tool for their integration.
Our Linking Communities Program also assists newcomers with integration by introducing them to Americans who can show them around their new community and help them learn about American culture.
We also have a partnership with Skyline Literacy to help eligible candidates to study for the citizenship naturalization test and complete their immigration paperwork to become American Citizens. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a newcomer who came 5 years ago achieve the goal of becoming a US citizen!