Outreach course helps refugees, researches solutions

By Sarah Wainright

Christina Berry has always loved helping people, but this semester, she helped people for three credit hours.

The class, “Community Mental Well-being from a non-Western Cultural Perspective” was created in January to work with African-Americans, African refugees, Latino immigrants and teen mothers and to look for general trends in these populations to see what programs could be implemented to improve their situations.

Berry, a psychology senior, signed up for the course because it sounded interesting to her. The class helps her gain experience in her field and teaches her how to do hands-on research, she said.

“It’s a great way to put what you’re learning in school to use,” Berry said. “It’s definitely sparked a passion inside of me.”

Berry and two other students are taking the course for credit this semester. The students are expected to collect data and write about it.

Aminata Cairo, the course instructor, said working with people on the community level should help those people find what they need to feel good about themselves. But as research associate for the Department of Community and Leadership Development, Cairo said it should help her create a lasting structure to support those communities.

One of the programs the class has started is called Families and Communities Educating Time, an after school program for English as a Second Language students at Cassidy Elementary and Morton Middle School.

FACE Time, which meets three days a week, helps primarily African refugee and Latino immigrant children advance academically and socially.

Many of the kids have bad memories of their country, according to FACE Time’s newsletter. The class wants to help the kids associate positive things with their origins through song, dance and storytelling.

Berry has seen significant changes in some children since they started the program. The kids are becoming more confident in their surroundings and getting along with each other better every day, she said.

The class also works with the children’s parents. A mothers’ sewing support group gathers women from different parts of the world to support one another in their new environment.

A fathers’ support group is being formed with the help of the Urban League MAN-UP program, Bluegrass Community and Technical College and other community members.

About 20 volunteers work with FACE Time, which Cairo hopes to continue through the summer. She is still looking for students to volunteer or work for EXP 396 or Departmental 399 credit this summer.

A FACE Time party will be held at Woodland Park on April 19 at noon to celebrate the children and community. The kids will share songs and dances from their countries. Everyone is invited to come and learn more about the program.