On the way back from a field trip to Lancaster Central Market, the students make a stop where there’s a world map on display and look for their homes.
They take turns pointing out Afghanistan, Congo and Central African Republic.
“Eric, where are you from?” asks Dominique Cressler, who is helping to guide the students during their field trip.
“I’m from America,” he says, and the class breaks into laughter.
In this class, the students hail from all over the world, yet they share similarities. They all are refugees who have fled their homes and are starting new lives in the United States, settling in Lancaster County.
Church World Service, the nonprofit helping the refugees with resettlement, has 90 days to teach them about American culture and help each person become self-sufficient. That means finding jobs for the adults and getting their children enrolled in school.
Language is a big part of helping them become self-sufficient. Church World Service has always offered English classes, but the demand has grown significantly since more refugees have resettled here.
Last year, the Lancaster office of Church World Service resettled 407 refugees, plus 326 more through the Cuba and Haiti entrant program, says Stephanie Gromek, the group’s development and communications coordinator.
“Refugees are the world’s most vulnerable of people,” Gromek says. “They are fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group. These are people who are fleeing. They have to leave their home for fear of their lives because of a way they practice their religion, a way that they look, a way that they love.”
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