Liz Heusman is the job training coordinator for the Center for People in Need, 3901 N. 27th St., Unit 1, Lincoln, NE 68521. She has worked at the center since February 2009 and can be reached at 402-476-4357, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How do you help refugees?
A. Job training is offered by the Center for People in Need to increase job opportunities for low-income families/individuals who lack the knowledge and skills to effectively gain employment. Participants learn salable skills needed to gain employment and work towards self-sufficiency. Job training includes educational videos and hands-on training in the following fields: janitorial, reception, retail, food service, warehouse and forklift. Along with the skills training, wrap-around services are provided to help the trainee eliminate or find support for any basic need barrier.
Q. What is the most common question you get from refugees? (And how do you answer it?)
A. Refugees asking, “What does this say?” referring to a piece of mail! I either find an interpreter or do my best to simplify what’s stated in the letter. I also try to explain “junk” mail.
Q. What is the most difficult part of your work?
A. Communication. I wish I could speak all the languages of the people we see daily at the Center. Also, not having enough resources to help address basic needs along with not having enough time to address cultural orientation issues.
Q. What does the wider community of Lincoln need to know about refugees?
A. What it truly means to be a refugee and/or an immigrant. These are people fleeing their country for safety. There is a stigma that if someone can’t speak English then they must be under-educated or lazy. This stigma couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many refugees and immigrants held prestigious jobs in their home country, but their experience and education is not acknowledged in the United States. Many worked long hours on farms in conditions that some can’t fathom. What if the United States became a war-torn country? How many people from Lincoln could leave their family, personal belongings and go to a country where they didn’t know the language, the customs and survive? Imagine going to another country and never being able to return to the U.S. Imagine if every dollar you earned and/or had in savings didn’t have value. All your education and work experience now meant nothing. How would you want the natives to treat you?
Q. What does the refugee community need to know about Lincoln?
Q. If you could offer refugees new to Lincoln only one piece of advice, what would it be?
A. If you feel lost, come to the Center for People in Need.