Library Reaches Out to Refugees

Bhutanese classBy Erin Zaputil of the Hiawatha Public Library

The Hiawatha Public Library has been a proud partner with the Catherine McAuley Center since 2014 to provide English language classes for a group of Bhutanese refugees. Since August 3, 41 Bhutanese students have studied 1,217 hours at the library.

These refugees, who speak Nepali, were forced to flee Bhutan due to violence and persecution stemming from religious, cultural and political issues. Many have spent decades living in camps in Nepal without sufficient food, clothes, health care, shelter and education.

Many of the students live within walking distance of the Hiawatha Public Library, and do not have transportation to travel to another destination. Katie Lanius, Education Program Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center states that if they didn’t have the space at the library “they would never be able to get downtown to the Center, they would never have an opportunity to work on their language skills.”

library giving treeProviding space for English language classes is an important part of library’s long-range service plan. Library Director Jeaneal Weeks says, “This is really important to me personally because I believe that our community is a welcoming one. We hear so much about immigration in the news these days. I’d like to focus on what we all have in common, which is striving for a good life. Our Bhutanese patrons are eager to learn English and to learn how to function here. We should welcome that initiative and hard work. These people are part of our community, we will try to serve them and meet their information needs just as we do for all in our community.”

Many of the refugees come to their new homes with very little, and many are ill-prepared for the coming winter. The Hiawatha Public Library is hosting a “Giving Tree” to gather donations of needed items for the students and their families. If you would like to participate please stop by the library, take a leaf from the tree, and bring the donated item back to the library. If you are unable to stop by please call the library for a list of needed items. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration!

This post first appeared on the Hiawatha Public Library’s Facebook page and was published here with permission of the author. Please show your support of their partnership with CMC by liking their page!