In the fellowship hall of the Clarkston International Bible Church, 12 men and women gathered together, speaking different languages from around the world. Although they did not share a language, they did all have one thing in common: each was holding a MARTA Breeze card. With this card in hand, they marched out of the hallway, moving toward the bus stop nearby.
On Thursday, LSG’s Refugee Services hosted one of its Extended Cultural Orientation (ECO) classes. During this session, newly arrived refugees from Burma, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, and the Congo learned how to take the train from Clarkston to LSG’s office downtown. Because these men and women will take trains and buses to find jobs, attend English classes, and visit new friends, they were learning an important skill. Along the way, there were a few surprises for the many individuals who had never used public transportation to travel around a city: during a brief talk on pedestrian safety, some were astounded to learn that crossing the street without a signal might earn them a ticket! After having a snack and participating in a quick debrief at LSG’s office, they were on their way back to Clarkston, practicing the skills they learned in identifying East, West, North, and South signs at the station.
The ECO program comprises nine classes, each one imparting new skills and facts about life in the United States to refugee clients. Other sessions include lessons on healthcare in the U.S., home management, personal safety, and U.S. laws and expectations. By the end of the program, the newly arrived refugee men and women will be on their way to gaining the self-sufficiency and cultural competency that they need to thrive in their communities.