New Bedford’s Afghan Refugee Families Experiencing Culture Shock
Helena DaSilva-Hughes, President of the Immigrants Assistance Center in New Bedford, didn't sugar coat it when she said that the immigrants who escaped the deadly Taliban in Afghanistan come from a culture so different from ours.
"We eat on tables with chairs, in their culture, the family eats on the floor!" she said. "Unlike here, there are no pictures of loved ones that can go on the walls because it's against their Muslim faith."
"Four families have already arrived and are living in New Bedford, and if we can find additional housing, more families will come here in the future," DaSilva-Hughes said. "But housing is, by far, the biggest challenge we have right now."
The other difficult task is finding housing that's close together, so families can socialize with each other because they speak very little English.
"We're finding the women arriving are illiterate, so we are starting a literacy class," DaSilva-Hughes said. "We have a mother in her early twenties, with two children, who can't even write her name. That's what we are seeing."
DaSilva-Hughes said that an overwhelming amount of people have reached out to ask how they can help. Finding housing and getting transportation to and from the mosque are, by and large, the most critical needs right now.
"New Bedford has always been a city that welcomed immigrants," she said. "Thankfully, the families from Afghanistan who've been here (and) integrated for a few years are a godsend for helping and communicating with the newly arrived."
And in addition to the city always welcoming immigrants, we owe a debt of gratitude to many of these Afghan refugees because they were so helpful to our troops for the past two decades, and risked death if they remained behind.
"Why not help the people who helped us? Immigrants come here because they want to come. Refugees come because they're forced to come," DaSilva-Hughes said.
We will continue to update you about the Afghan families in New Bedford who are starting a new life.