Uprooted and separated from their families, Sudanese refugees Abdallah Adam, Mohammad Adam, Ismail Abaker, Hammad Haroon, and Ibrahim Hamid arrived in Syracuse, New York, in late November 2012. They’ve made good use of the seven months they’ve been here—taking literacy classes and adjusting to cultural differences.
The group of five Sudanese men, all between the ages of 25-30, were born and raised in Sudan. In 2003, however, the Second Sudanese Civil War displaced them from their homes. They moved to a refugee camps in other countries, but life in a refugee camp meant limited food and no education.
In fact, most of them men did not take any sort of education class until they were adults. Ibrahim, for example, took his first class in 2012 at the age of 24.
Eventually, the men were placed with the Syracuse Refugee Assistance Program and landed in Syracuse—to experience snow for the first time.
“I have only seen snow on T.V.,” says Mohammad. “It was cold.”
The Refugee Assistance Program found them housing on the North Side of Syracuse and enrolled them in English language classes. They are now studying three times a week at ProLiteracy.
When not in class or working, they like walking around the neighborhood and exercising. Meeting people and making friends has been a challenge. Hammad notes the cultural difference between Sudanese and American neighborhoods. In Sudanese neighborhoods, there were always groups of people outside that he felt comfortable approaching and talking to. He has noticed that American neighbors do not always interact with or know each other. Adding to this cultural difference is a language barrier.
Even with the challenge of adjusting to cultural differences, the Sudanese refugees are happy to be in America.
“Being here is safe. Sudan has no security. America is a safe place,” says Ibrahim.
At ProLiteracy, their grammar, reading, and vocabulary lessons are based on useful topics, helping them further adjust to their new home. Recent lessons included tips on how to save money. Other lessons also focus on current events so they are able to stay abreast with what’s happening in the world.
Word searches and crossword puzzles have also helped strengthen their spelling and vocabulary skills.
The men have noticed improvements in their English language abilities and are beginning to write sentences. Holding conversations in English outside of class, however, is still a struggle. Studying at ProLiteracy is helping with their hopes of one day passing the GED test, finding employment, and obtaining citizenship.
“You need education so you can help yourself and help each other,” says Hammad.