Burmese Advocacy Center
Updated: Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013, 3:39 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013, 1:28 PM EST
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- A northeastern Indiana center that helps refugees from the Asian nation of Myanmar adjust to life in the U.S. is shifting its mission to focus more on education and employment while also aiding other immigrant groups.
Fort Wayne is home to more than 6,000 immigrants from Myanmar, giving it one of the largest U.S. communities of immigrants from the Southeast Asian country also known as Burma. Military rule in Myanmar ended in 2011 after five decade after a pro-military party won a general election and the junta's prime minister, retired Gen. Thein Sein took office as president.
Burmese Advocacy Center director Minn Myint Nan Tin said not as many Burmese refugees who've left Myanmar are settling in Fort Wayne as in years past, but the center has branched out to help other immigrant groups.
"We also work with Congo, Somalia and Chad refugees," she told the News-Sentinel.
The advocacy center currently has 130 families from Burma and is expected to add an additional 60 this year. The center's offerings include immigrant and refugee job development, vocational training and cross-cultural education.
Mynamar residents arriving in the U.S. generally need three or more years to understand the American system.
"It's very hard for the Burmese to adjust to the culture, going from the jungle to an advanced society. If you don't have the language your future is dark," said center board member Kham Mung.
Education and employment remain big issues for Myanmar families, many of which are working in very low-paying jobs and living in poverty, said Sophia Tippmann, the center's board president.
Last year, the center held a community recognition celebration for 100 Myanmar high school graduates. Out of those 100, 67 are attending Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, 12 are at Indiana University and the rest at area vocational schools.
Minn Myint Nan Tin said the center would like to help Myanmar people who struggled in high school and are now in low-paying factory jobs. She said some of them were teens when they came to America.
A case worker and center board member, Min Shwe Oo, said most of those teens cannot learn enough English or understand the high school system well enough to succeed as students in only four years. And all too often they end up in low-paying factory jobs.
"Education is the key factor," said Minn Myint Nan Tin.
Information from: The News-Sentinel, http://www.news-sentinel.com/ns
Ground rules for posting comments: No profanity or personal attacks. No racially charged comments. If it's not something you would say to someone's face, it's most likely inappropriate. Please comment on the subject of the story itself. If you do not follow these rules, we will remove your post. Repeat offenders will be banned from making future comments. Keep it civil, folks! WANE is not responsible for the content posted in this comment section.