Countries all over the world are accepting Syrian refugees forced to flee from their war-torn homes. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have collectively taken more than 3.6 million displaced Syrians. As refugees seek homes and safety, even Western Massachusetts is seeing an influx of immigrants. The state of Massachusetts has already admitted 72 Syrians, and the number will most likely continue to grow as President Obama pledged to admit 10,000 Syrians into the country.
However, after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, opposes the idea of welcoming refugees into Mass
achusetts. He stated, ‘‘The safety and security of the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts is my highest priority. I’m always going to be willing to at least hear what the federal government has to say. As a public official, that’s my job. Hearing what they have to say does not mean saying yes.’’
However, for the Syrians who have already arrived, The Center for New Americans, a community-based education and resource service for immigrants and refugees in Western Massachusetts, could be instrumental. The Center helps refugees from all over the world find homes and jobs. There are locations in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Amherst, Northampton, and Springfield.
According to the website, the mission of the Center for New Americans is to “provide under-served immigrant, refugee and migrant communities of Massachusetts Pioneer Valley with education and resources to learn English, become involved community members and obtain tools necessary to maintain economic independence and stability.” The Center is a community-based, non-profit organization for adult refugees and their families.
Laurie Millman, Interim Director of The Center in Northampton explained, “We help immigrants to integrate into our community by teaching English, providing technology instruction, offering education and career advising, and citizenship and immigration assistance.”
The Center helps about 450 people each year, although the number fluctuates. Refugees and immigrants come from over 50 countries and Laurie explained, “In any one class, we might have students from Cape Verde, Morocco, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Ghana, Ecuador…”
Alhough The Center does work with some Syrians, Palestinians, and Iraqis, and has even helped some Iraqis obtain citizenships, Laurie noted that “The Center for New Americans is not a refugee resettlement agency.” She added, “We educate people once they are re-settled.”
While The Center is not, according to Millman, a “first responder” for refugees when they first arrive, the Ascentria Care Alliance, based in Worcester, acts as a “first responder” to refugees arriving in the United States. Its mission, according to its website, is to “strengthen communities by empowering people to respond to life’s challenges.”
The Syrian refugee crisis has also rippled into the Deerfield community. Ms. Moushabeck, who keeps in touch with her Middle Eastern family and friends through the internet, described seeing the updates in Syria as “very depressing, especially when you learn that most of them do not have adequate shelter, blankets, or clothes, let alone medicine or food.” She explained that in our own community, “sometimes it is hard to see the abundance around me and not feel some guilt for not doing enough. But I have donated clothes and participated in fundraisers like the Soup For Syria cookbook, the proceeds of which go to the UNHCR that provides food relief for the Syrian refugees.”
Deerfield students at can help The Center for New Americans by making financial donations. According to the Center’s website, “$104 dollars buys books and materials for two students, $260 dollars provides citizenship assistance for two students, $780 supports six students through employment counseling and $1040 provides English classes with support for six months.” The Center is community-based, so any type of support is encouraged.