Refugee family in Nebraska opens first Kurdish classes

students sitting and listening to teacher at front of room

Many refugees want to give back to their communities at home and in the USA.

Sometimes events are a turning point in our lives. For me and my family, coming to the USA was one of those memorable and important events. Another turning point was when we decided to start Kurdish classes for refugee kids in our city.

Back in 1980 and 1990s, I never thought that someday I would be a refugee (or asylee) under the protection of the USA. More than that, I never thought I would be able to open a school for helping refugee kids and their families.

I remember when we first entered the USA in 2012. I told my wife to do one thing for me: “Focus on language and culture as your first priority”.  Without knowing specific reasons, I was always encouraging her to learn English as soon as possible. Besides encouraging her, I was helping and supervising in her learning efforts. She was always asking me, “Why do I have to do this”?  I was always answering her that language is an important bridge for refugee success.

Five years later, she is doing her undergraduate studies at the Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska. She also started a job that she likes. More importantly, she is reaching out to the refugee community in Nebraska and she helps to teach new refugees the English language and the American culture.

The idea of opening the first Kurdish class for kids was because of my son. I started to teach him my language at home with a simple whiteboard. After discussion with my wife, we decided to open a class for refugee kids in the city.

Together we opened the first refugee kids’ school in Lincoln, Nebraska, in December 2016. The idea was successful: in the first class, we had around 30 kids. Now we are in the second year and the number is increasing.

The goal of the Kurdish classes is to help refugees be successful in America.

Most kids are between the age of 6 to 16 years old and they are from families who recently got resettlement in Nebraska. Besides teaching the English language and American culture, we want to encourage communal support among refugees in their new environment. The idea of the Kurdish classes is how to get used to diversity in America and be successful in getting into college and find a suitable job in the future.

This class is not a substitute for their regular school. It is a volunteer work for helping new refugees to get assimilated to life and culture in America. The class started with a small number in 2016 and now we have around 45 kids and its growing. The good thing is that other refugees from other states contacted us for starting something like this in their cities.

Despite some minor challenges like lack of financial resources and permanent place for class activities, limited numbers of volunteers and teachers, my wife and I are helping these groups of refugees with a lot of care. We hope that someday we would be able to get a license from the government and start a bigger and more inclusive program for as many refugees as we can.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.