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Monday, May 31, 2010

Somali organization formed in G.I.

The United Somali Service of Nebraska is now sharing office space with the Multicultural Coalition of Grand Island, which itself is located in the Workforce Development building, 1306 W. Third St.

Officers for the group are Abdisamad Jama, president; Ali Mohamoud, vice president; and Abdiqani Yusuf, secretary. The organization also has seven board members.

Jama, Mohamoud and Yusuf all have full-time jobs, which means they are working as volunteers for the United Somali Service of Nebraska.

Jama said the United Somali Service of Nebraska has the same goal as the Multicultural Coalition: helping immigrants make a successful adjustment to a new country and a new community.

During its time in Grand Island, the Multicultural Coalition of Grand Island has had two bilingual executive directors: Odalys Perez and Anita Pinon. Both are bilingual in English and Spanish. Jama, Mohamoud and Yusuf are able to communicate in both English and Somali, which is one reason they want to have their own organization in with the Multicultural Coalition.

Pinon noted that Grand Island is becoming home to more and more Somali residents.

Many of the new Somali residents in Grand Island have come here from Minneapolis, which is home to a large number of Somali immigrants, Jama and Yusuf said. Many other Somali immigrants have come from Columbus, Ohio. Increasingly, Somali immigrants are now coming to Grand Island from many other communities.

Many Somali immigrants in Minneapolis had difficulty in finding full-time work, Jama said. They could find temporary work, but after a time that job would end, and the person would be hunting for another job. Yusuf said Somali immigrants who arrived in the Minneapolis area years earlier often have an ability to speak English much more fluently than Somali immigrants who arrived later. He said that has made it easier for the Somalis who speak English to find full-time jobs.

Jama and Yusuf said many Somalis are attracted to Grand Island because they can find work at JBS Swift & Co., even if they have little or no ability to speak English. Swift not only offers full-time work, but also offers jobs with benefits such as health insurance.

Jama and Yusuf said many Somalis also have found that housing in Grand Island is much more affordable than housing in Minneapolis and other large American cities.

While Somali immigrants are finding jobs in Grand Island, they still need help making the transition to the community, Jama and Yusuf said. Making a successful transition can be important not only to immigrants, but also to residents who have lived a long time in Grand Island.

For example, they said, an immigrant may need to know that they should go to a doctor's office 10 minutes early to check in at the reception desk and perhaps fill out paperwork. They said a new immigrant needs to know that if they show up 30 or 40 minutes late for a doctor's appointment, they will upset the schedule for the entire office.

Likewise, Jama and Yusuf said, immigrants to this country need to know that they not only need a Nebraska driver's license to drive their car in Grand Island and other locations, but they also need to buy insurance for that car. Again, having that knowledge about the mandated car insurance coverage helps not only the immigrant, but all the other drivers on the road.

Jama and Yusuf said one of the big needs for their organization is to do translating work for Somali immigrants.

Pinon said she is working with St. Francis Medical Center and others to try to get a formal medical interpreters class arranged for this fall. She said the 40-hour class would be worth 14 college credits. She said she would like the class to include a number of people who can speak not only English, but also their native language, whether it be Spanish, Somali or one of the Sudanese dialects or languages.

Over the long term, Jama and Yusuf said, they would like the United Somali Service of Nebraska to offer citizenship classes. They said Somali immigrants come to this country as refugees from war-torn Somalia. After a year, they can become a resident, which entitles them to a green card. In another five years, a Somali immigrant can become a U.S. citizen if they gain the knowledge needed to pass the U.S. citizenship test.

Multicultural Coalition needs new director

The Multicultural Coalition is undergoing one other big change, with Executive Director Anita Pinon announcing that she wants to become the coalition's immigrant advocate.

Pinon said she wants to work closer to a 40-hour week while she works toward a bachelor's degree in administration and business management. Pinon said she especially needs the shorter hours while working toward her degree because she also has family responsibilities.

She said the closing date for applications for a new executive director is June 15. The application must include a letter of interest, r?sum?, and references.

Source: The Grand Island Independent


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