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Interaction Between Refugees And Non-refugee Families Is Beneficial To Both Parties

By Grace Dawson
On March 1, 2019

With the recent increased awareness of the refugee crises taking place across the world, the topic has become one for debate with many saying that refugees take a negative toll on the countries to which they relocate. Regardless of issues relating to resources, there is a clear cultural benefit to the situation which, if approached properly, can be a positive thing for both refugees and the communities that accept them.

Brown University’s BRYTE (Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment) program integrates children of refugee families from Burma, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Nepal into American culture by pairing the children with undergraduate tutors who help them develop English language skills and an understanding of American culture. However, senior Christine Pappas stated that the interactions between tutors and tutees became more meaningful and led to interactions with whole families. A similar program is conducted at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, ND: children from refugee families with English-speaking abilities ranging across the spectrum. The program extends to the families for outreach events where whole families from both the refugee community and the high school community exchange and display different elements of their cultures.

Programs like these, created with a decidedly Western “let’s help these people” purpose, have the tendency to turn into something much deeper: they allow people who have only experienced one kind of culture to broaden their horizons through discussions and experiences shared with people from a completely different background. This clearly only works if ethnocentrism and the common Western complex (made up of ideas in the “colonizer” mindset, as described by Edward Said) is avoided. It is crucial not to think of opportunities like these as solely a way to teach others your culture as “the right way” to live; rather, it is imperative that participants in programs like these keep their minds open to new ideas from cultures other than their own and value those new ideas as equals to similar standards from Western culture.

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