Immigrants were celebrated at an upbeat spring luncheon at the Lone Tree Golf and Country Club on May 3. Three grantee-speakers shared experiences with more than 80 attendees at Immigrant Pathways Colorado’s annual event, sharing stories of families, communications, adjustments to a new home, bravery and at times, sadness, as well as success …
Immigrant Pathways Colorado has grown out of an initial effort that also created the City of Littleton’s Littleton Immigrant Resource Center at Bemis Library. From 2003-2009 Colorado Trust funded an initiative that focused on “integration of newcomers from around the world into the community.” When initial funding dried up, a city department was formed that offers Littleton residents many services, including English as a foreign language. Also formed was the South Metro Health Alliance, which took on medical services.
But there remained additional needs for extended reach perceived by the founding group, so Immigrant Pathways Colorado was formed, which president Susan Thornton described as “small but mighty.” It has raised more than $56,000 in grants and facilitated $20,000 to Arapahoe Community College, which has welcomed students from abroad since its beginning.
Three current grantees with different backgrounds spoke about their experiences in a new home. Connie Shoemaker introduced the trio, noting that “Pathways are the direction along which someone moves … and can be smooth or filled with sharp obstacles.” She asked the three speakers similar questions, on the topics of: “why and when you left to come to the U.S. and what you left behind.”
Srebrina Minchrvra said she was born in the United States in 1970, but then her family returned to Bulgaria to live. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2006 when she was a second-year university student, planning to be a fine arts teacher. “I wanted to come back here.” She learned English and works as a massage therapist and certified nurse assistant, but wants to become a registered nurse. She was granted an IPC scholarship to obtain the necessary training at Arapahoe Community College.
She has not yet found the close community she left in Bulgaria, which only has 7.5 million citizens. She spoke of an especially kind taxi driver and help from her ex-mother-in-law with getting her green card. “My mom and sister and brother are still there …” Her husband is an American man. They have a son. She wants to go into education and help immigrants.
Abdo Sekreih arrived from Syria with his wife and three daughters, passing through the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait on the way. “I wanted a safe house for my three daughters — all young.” He spoke of Colorado’s “blue skies, color. There, all is black and white …” He learned English at the African Community Center. “It required a job very soon,” he said. His wife found one in a day care center in a week. He works at Community Banks of Colorado and hopes to improve the family income through real estate appraisal training. IPC can assist with that. “I started in the banking industry.” He had experience in accounting.
Shoemaker commented that many immigrants come with a background they need to use.
When someone in the audience asked “what can we do to help?” the answer was “Hire us!”
Lisa Aryan, from Afghanistan, has two children. She told of a knock on the door there — men with guns wanted her husband. “After that, the only goal was to get out. It took a year — usually takes two or three years.” Her husband got a visa first — he had worked as a translator for the U.S. Army and his life was endangered. “We moved every few months …” She received a visa in another six months.
In the U.S., both had to work right away to pay the rent. Both went back to school at Arapahoe Community College. He’s pursuing an architecture degree and she’s in classes for nursing or dental hygienist degree. “It’s hard on the kids,” she said. Having a name like an American one has helped, she said. She interviewed for a job without her scarf, but now wears it. Someone asked; “What helped you integrate?” Reply: “Having a friend come to visit you!”
Shoemaker observed: “That’s something everyone can do. Walk the pathway with these people.”
A round of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land … This Land is My Land …” closed this very positive event.
For information on IPC, see: Connectingimmigrants.org. The luncheon brochure listed 25 countries of origin for people the organization has assisted. Grants helped with applications for citizenship, learning English, tools for work, specialized training, transportation.