Thursday, April 12, 2012

Laying Foundations

Anna Sibley has been an Americorps ACCESS Member at African Services Coalition since September of 2011. Providing case management and assisting in any other capacity she can, Anna has been an invaluable asset to the ASC family. Below she shares a brief story from the lives of one of the many families she was fortunate to work with:

Back in January, African Services got word that two young girls from the Ivory Coast in East Africa would be travelling to Greensboro to join their father. The older girl, Mamba, was 8 and her younger sister, Makouba, was 6. Their dad had been living in the U.S. for about five years with the girls’ older brother and sister.

I was assigned to their case to be sure the girls had a smooth transition to their new life in America. On the evening of Janurary 24, I was privileged to witness a joyful family reunion as Mamba and Makouba, beautifully attired in white dresses and denim jackets, were welcomed by their father and extended family. The girls were reserved but obviously very happy.

The following morning I arrived at their apartment and took the father, Mamba, and Makouba, for their social service appointments (getting them on food stamps, Medicaid, and applying them for social security cards). I was amused to find the girls in full “African” attire—meaning lightweight dresses dyed in vibrant colors—despite the cold temperatures. Fortunately, the dad had gone shopping in anticipation of the cold weather before their arrival and the girls wore jackets over their dresses and socks with their sandals. I realized that cool weather would be the first big adjustment for them. As I drove them to their appointment, neither spoke very much but stared wide-eyed out the window, taking in a new city and country.

In the Ivory Coast, the girls grew up speaking their mother language, Mandingo, and also French. While their father speaks English well, the girls did not know any upon their arrival. But through his translation, the father let me know that one of the first questions the older girl, Mamba, asked her father upon arrival was, “When can I go to school?”

I have found that both refugee children and adults are extremely eager to learn and take advantage of the educational opportunities in the U.S. Approximately two weeks after their arrival, both girls were enrolled in the same elementary school. Their older brother, a 5th grader at the same school, was able to show them how to ride the bus. Fortunately, the school also has a well-established ESOL program for the girls to begin learning English. Since they began school, I noticed that the girls have become more confident, content, and well-adjusted. They are still shy but obviously eager to continue to learn.

We were very fortunate as well in finding a married couple who began coming to the family’s apartment on Sunday afternoons to help Mamba and Makouba with reading and homework. The father typically works a second-shift job on weekdays and is often unable to help the girls with their homework during the week, leaving the task to uncles and other members of the extended family. The father was thrilled with these two volunteers, as extra homework help will be a boost to the girls’ learning.

Working with the father, Mamba, and Makouba has been a fantastic experience; the most rewarding element undoubtedly witnessing how happy these girls are with their dad in the United States. The foundation has been laid for them to have a bright and happy future in this country, and I am privileged to have played a small part in laying that foundation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Smallest Contributions

 Jordan McFadden has been a part of the ASC family since November of 2011. As a Political Science student at UNCG he offers his great knowledge of on-going events throughout the world and an avid interest in learning. He works closely with the Job Developer to strengthen relationships with employers and prepare refugees for the world of work in the United States. Check back for more from Jordan and others here at NC African Services Coalition.

The Smallest Contributions

I have worked as an intern at ASC for three months so far. A noteworthy instance in particular that has stuck with me began rather innocuously with a simple job development task.  My boss asked me to take three clients (and a photographer/journalist from UNC-Chapel Hill) to a nearby hotel to fill out applications and hopefully meet with the management for an interview.  This was a unique assignment due to the fact that we had no previous experience or placements with the hotel, and only one of the three clients had a good grasp of conversational English.

That day both the photographer and I sat along-side these clients, making sure that each client filled out the applications correctly and understood every step of the process completely. The manager was on duty and agreed to interview each client for a housekeeping position as they finished up their applications.  By the time each client went through their private interview, the manager explained that not only was he interested in bringing on each of the applicants, but also building a close relationship with our organization.

By the start of the week, the hotel has graciously interviewed additional clients, that are now making their way through the final stages of the employment process.  I couldn't possibly articulate the sense of humility I have gained through this experience. Even the smallest of contributions can bring those who are striving for gainful employment so much closer to self-sufficiency in the United States.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Typical Day in My Service

Million MeKonnen joined the African Services Coalition’s family as an Americorps ACCESS member this September. Prior to being a case manager with ASC, Million received his Masters degree in Economics from NC State University in Raleigh. He is currently working towards obtaining his PhD from the same institution. He received his BA while living in Ethiopia, he has lived in the US for the past eight years.

A Typical Day in My Service

It was just a regular Wednesday. I got up early since I had to take one of our clients to his dental appointment in Burlington for his extraction. I had taken him to the Greensboro office for his consultation the prior day and had been told the only opening before the end of the year was Wednesday at 9:00 am. He had no other option but to take the spot, I assured him I would take him. We got there at 8:30 am and I assisted him in filling out some forms. Around 9:15 am, he got called and I interpreted the procedures with a nurse and Doctor. Then I was told to wait in the waiting room. After about twenty minutes, I was called and explained some care needed to be taken while he recovered at home. I drove him back home and went to get his prescription drugs. After I dropped off his medicine, I headed back to office to work on case notes. The day goes by like a regular day until I got a call from another client who injured his knee and I needed to take him to urgent care. I talked to my coworker, Lola, who knows medical facilities around; she suggested I take him to Moses Cone Urgent Care. She told me she would meet us a little later down there. I picked him up and got him there around 4:00 pm. After I helped him with the application, we began waiting for his turn. I found out it would take an hour and a half for his turn. In the mean time I went back to the office to finish daily paper work and then I went back after an hour and found Lola with the client. Around 5:30 pm, I got a call from UNC Emergency Hospital, and found my friend had had an accident and was in the emergency room. I had to wait for the client finish his examination. At around 6:10 pm, he finished and I dropped him at his apartment and headed straight to Chapel Hill. I got there at 7:25 and found my friend with some bruises on the face and a leg injury. Finally, after the X-ray results, around 10:45 pm, the Doctor said everything was fine and prescribed some drugs for my friend. I got the medication for my friend on the way to his house and spent the night in Durham. Early the next morning I headed back to Greensboro to start over again.

Million Mekonnen
AmeriCorps Member
NC African Services Coalition

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did You Know......

Did you know that in East African cultures it is a gesture of hospitality to offer guests in your home food or a drink. Many East Africans will become offended if this gesture is refused.

Other displays of proper etiquette in East African countries are....

Accepting gifts and handshaking with the left hand is inappropriate.

East Africans are very private people. Trust is a major factor in communication because many East Africans will not share information with people that they do not trust.

Eye contact is not always advised. It is courteous and respectful to not hold eye contact for long periods of time.

Pointing a finger is also a sign of disrespect in most East African countries. If you must point it is best to nod your head in the direction that you want to point or use an open hand instead of a single finger.

Learn More:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Anna Sibley began her Americorps ACCESS term with the African Services Coalition in the summer of 2011. Prior to joining the ASC family Anna received her Public Health Education Masters Degree from UNCG. Originally from Raleigh, Anna has lived in Greensboro for the past two years. Anna is a case manager for the TAG program at African Services Coalition. Below she shares a story of her time with the agency:
"A story that makes me grateful to work at African Services:

I was recently able to meet a young woman from Sudan who had come to the U.S. on a visa and was then granted asylum status. Her name is Hanna. She came to the office with her older sister, Sosan, in hopes of enrolling in some social services. I found out that Hanna and Sosan had recently moved to North Carolina from Virginia and had been unable to get any benefits (food stamps, Medicaid) while in Virginia. Apparently the social services department turned Hanna away because they only provided services for refugees and not asylees.

I learned that Sosan is a physician practicing at Moses Cone Hospital and that Hanna studied civil engineering in Sudan. She is currently taking English classes and hopes to enroll at a university so that she can continue her studies. Since her sister is relatively well off, Hanna will not have to take a menial job to make ends meet and can focus entirely on school. However, any benefits she could receive would make life that much easier for her and her sister.

I was able to take Hanna and Sosan to the Greensboro Dept of Social Services. After waiting a few hours we were able to get an interview for that afternoon. The social worker got Hanna enrolled for food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance.

The sisters were both so gracious and appreciative and it was a true pleasure to work with them and get to know them."
Hanna and Sosan are only a few of the many that ASC assists on a daily basis. Through Anna's commitment and time a part of their burden was lightened. Please check back for more stories from our staff, interns and volunteers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Did You Know...

Did you know that Italian is a common language in Somalia? Italy acquired a portion of Somalia as a colony in 1880 through a series of treaties with Somalis leaders. The territory was referred to as Italian Somaliland until 1936 when it became apart of Africa Orientale Italiana. During the colonization Italian was the major language. In 1941, Italy lost control of Somalia to the British.

Today, Somali is the official language of Somalia. Other common languages include Arabic and English. However, Italian is still spoken by approximately 10% of the population.

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