The United States resettlement process expects refugees to become self-sufficient within 8 months of arrival. For refugees from Burma, the majority of whom come from rural farming backgrounds, many are unable to speak English and/or have had no opportunity to learn to read in their own languages. This population needs ongoing support for translation and navigating new and unfamiliar systems in the United States, systems that often do not exist in their country of origin. Casework is provided twice a week to assist community members with daily tasks such as reading post, contacting service providers and other individual needs.
SayDaNar works with service providers to host and translate workshops to support community members to adapt to cultural differences, understand and navigate systems, and integrate into life in the United States. To date, SayDaNar has partnered with Mill City Grows, Merrimack Housing Initiative, Lowell Community Health Center and Washington Savings Bank. SayDaNar welcomes interest from service providers who may wish to reach out to the community from Burma.
Homework Help Program
Arriving in the United States, with little to no English and low education levels – a result of different teaching methodologies and poor resources in the refugee camp – children from Burma face many challenges adapting to the United States education system. As seen with other refugee populations, this can lead to frustration, depression and in the worst case school drop outs or anti-social behavior. SayDaNar’s after school homework help program supports children with their homework by providing extra volunteer support in their own language as well as English. The program not only supports children whose parents are working long hours, or who do not have the language skills to support their children with homework, but provides interaction and learning together with American volunteers, leading to greater assimilation, and ultimately increased educational opportunities.
Through donations SayDaNar has purchased second hand industrial sewing machines to provide a space for community members searching for work to learn and practice at their own convenience. Community members from Burma are supporting and giving back to newer community members by teaching sewing skills.
Women's Weaving Group from Burma
Formed with the support of Saydanar by a group of refugee women with diverse ethnic backgrounds from Burma, the women’s weaving group creates and sells traditional handmade woven products in order to fulfill their mission to:
- Provide Supplemental income for their families
- Maintain and promote their cultural heritage
- Teach their children and new generation their cultural skills and traditions
SayDaNar regularly holds community meetings for community feedback and information sharing. Additionally, SayDaNar holds annual Back to School events celebrating student success, Thanksgiving events and football tournaments. For the first time this year, SayDaNar will host a Burmese Food Fair in Lowell and will participate in the Lowell Folk Festival and South-East Asian Water Festival.
- Casework sessions held 10 hours per week, 50 weeks per year serving 170 community member by 1 caseworker with support from UMass service learning students.
- Community Workshops on topics such as fitness finance, nutrition, the US education system.
- Homework Help sessions held 3 x per week for 1.5 hours during school semesters serving 52 elementary, middle and high school students with support from 40 volunteers from UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Westford Academy students and retired teachers.