You are on page 1of 9

Angaza Mayo-Laughinghouse

Soc 301-03

Interview

Interviewer (Angaza)

Interviewee (Angel)

Interviewer: tell me a little about yourself

Angel: I am the social worker for the Newcomer’s school. Amongst my many duties
I am here to serve students and their families in any capacity that’s necessary.
There’s no limit to the services I provide. There’s a lot of work to be done here as
students and their families arrive here from refugee camps, not knowing anything
about the society here or how our system operates. My educational background…
you want to know about that also?

I: yeah, yeah

A: I am UNCG alumni, I graduated with a BSW, that’s a bachelors in social work. I’m
somewhat bilingual. I speak Spanish and English, of course. The Spanish probably
about a 7th or 8th grade level. My family background…My mother is from Argentina,
my father is from Vietnam. I’m the oldest of 7 children. I grew up helping my family
members, serving as interpreter or guide in many ways, so I just feel like it’s my
calling to continue on this life journey in many ways as a service provider.

I: sounds good. Where did you say you were from again?

A: from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I: how long have you been in Greensboro?

A:I’ve been in Greensboro since 1998.

I: Oh yeah? Sounds good, sounds good. Umm, lemme see, anything else about you
that I missed…

A: umm, I’m a mother of four children and my husband is a Cambodian refugee.


That’s about all I can tell you

I: oh yea. Let me ask you this, you don’t have to go into detail but what made you
parents leave their home towns? And your husband too?

A: my husband was a child when they had to leave Cambodia, there was mass
genocide in his country, everybody was forced out or forced into prison labor camps
where they were enslaved. Um, his family escaped the camp and fled through the
jungle of Cambodia into Thailand where they were housed in a refugee camp until
they came here. My father from Vietnam, he came towards the end of the Vietnam
War and escaped by boat. He came to Malaysia, was in a refugee camp, and, uh,
went to California first and the refugee organization moved him to Philadelphia
where he met my mother, who, she and her family came from Argentina. They had
to leave Argentina because of some political violence. My maternal family members
suffered from kidnappings and certain types of torture that my mother doesn’t
really like to talk about.

I: Dang, that’s an amazing background. You seem like you’ve got some steal in your
bloodline. Yall are some strong people, I like that. OK let me ask you this…we’ll
switch gears a little bit and talk about the people you work with. Can you tell me in
what ways you work with migrants or deal with immigration

A: ummm, well all of our students here are either refugees or immigrants. As a
social worker I receive referrals from teacher or other staff if the notice something
isn’t quite right, or if somebody may need help with something whether it’s
physical, mental, behavioral, anything at all. The send the kids to me and upon
trying to meet their needs on the surface level, I always find things under the
surface that need to be addressed. I do everything from advocacy to simple things
like helping families meet their basic needs. But my overall goal is to help families
become self sufficient.

I: now out of everything you could have done in the world, what made you decide to
do this?

A: well…it’s definitely not the money, I can tell you that [laugh] It’s just a love of
human kind and a desire to help relieve people from their suffering and spread
compassion among people.

I: I understand that

A: I guess you can sum that all up as love

I: oh yeah

A: yeah

I: I like that. That sounds good. How long have you done this?

A: I have been a social worker for 8 years. I served six years at another school which
was an alternative learning school for kids who were placed on long term
suspension, and mostly kids who were using or selling drugs, or in gangs. I came
here last year at the start of the school year. So I’ve been working with immigrants
solely, maybe a year, almost a year and a half now.
I: OK. Is there anything in particular that attracted you to this school? What made
you want to work with kids instead of adults

A: Umm as a social worker I’m working with kids and their families so it’s not just
kids. When you’re a social worker, it’s the whole family unit. And um, the reason
why I chose to work in the school is because originally I was a education major. And
while doing my student teaching peace I was in an high impact school and I was
doing more social work than teaching and I found myself enjoying that. So I moved
on to a different major

I: Oh yeah?

A: yeah.

I: I like that. Sounds good. Um, the immigrants that you work with, the migrants you
work with, what are their nationalities or are they from all different nationalities?

A: From all different nationalities. They’ve changed a little bit this year from last
year because it all depends on what groups the UN allows to leave refugee camps
and this year we have a lot of Burmese, like we did last year. But we can’t really call
the people Burmese because while they’re actually from Burma, the people we
receive as refugees are the ethnic minorities from Burma like the Chin, Corin, the
um, Rohinger which are also known as Burmese Muslims. And we’re also receiving a
lot of Iraqi students this year, which is very different because unlike the other
groups, the Iraqis have never been in refugee camp so their coming here directly
from the chaos so there’s no resting period. So their needs are much different from
the refugee groups, some have sat in refugee camps for 10, 15, up to 20 years.
They’ve had a long resting period.

I: That almost brings me to my next question. What are the different needs of
immigrants with certain nationalities?

A: OK Umm..

I: just a few of them, you don’t have to go into detail.

A: OK the Iraqi students have a lot of behavioral needs because their coming from
the heart of a war. They’re coming with a lot of aggression, depression, and grief.
The Burmese are coming with anger. The Burmese ethnic minority groups I should
say. They’re coming with anger because in the refugee camps, where they waited
and waited, they had a lot of division in groups. Some were given more privileges
than others. For example the Muslims had no place of worship and the other groups
either had a Buddhist temple or a church, if they were Christian.

I: I understand that. What are some of the most difficult issues you face while trying
to help and empower these immigrants?
A: Umm, there’s so many. One would be the language piece because in my goal to
help families become self sufficient one of the most important things they need is to
be able to communicate with the mainstream society and of course they will need
to speak English. And it’s difficult because some of our kids, let alone their parents
have never held a pencil before. They’ve never had any type of education before.
And just to teach how to write in script is very basic. So just imagine going from that
to having to learn to speak and comprehend a new language. And also many of our
groups don’t even have the same alphabet that we have so they don’t recognize
ABC or 123 so it’s difficult for them to even navigate the bus system.

I: Ok, I’ve never heard of the Newcomer’s school before this so I’m still trying to
understand the whole thing. In my school, public school it was so standard, we
move from one grade to the next and so forth. In this school with students coming
in at different times of the year and different needs, how do they progress? Is there
a certain track that they follow in set time periods?

A: all the students who enroll here are given a basic test to determine where we
enroll them based on their understanding of the English language. Some have
absolutely no experience with our language or alphabet and others have had some
interaction with our language and so they may be able to read or write a little bit
when they arrive. And so we have teachers do things differently based on their style
of teaching but sometimes there’s groups in the classroom so one group may
understand on one level and another group understand on a higher or lower level
and so they may be given different assignments. You will find that system in most of
the core classes like math, science, English. And then we have basic ESL classes
also which strictly teach the language, alphabet, and number systems. We also offer
Saturday school so those students who are lower than most can come on Saturday
for three hours and receive one on one instruction

I: now I’ve noticed that since we’ve been talking, you and this school don’t really
seem to focus on helping and giving handouts, but instead empowering and making
students and their families self sufficient. And I’ve got to say that I like that a lot. My
pops is all about that. He was real big in the civil rights movement and he didn’t just
want to get hand out for African Americans, he wanted real empowerment. So I like
that philosophy a lot. But, um, we talked a lot about the services you guys provide,
but what about Greensboro? What services does the city provide?

A: well the very basic services would be the social service building where they
provide the food stamps and medicaid. All refugees receive that service for six
months. And then, you know we have some immigrants who don’t qualify for any
services at all because they might not….uhhh….[hesitates]……..they might not
know how to access those services or they might not…uhhh…..have a social
security number…..
I: Oh it’s all good, I understand. My professor isn’t going to try to come & get yall or
anything like that.

A: OK [smiles, sigh]and within the school system we don’t really deal with social
security numbers. Then we also have, well Moses Cone hospital offers a language
line so anyone speaking a different language can go to the Moses Cone & be able to
communicate which is great. The hospital pays for that line with their own budget
and I understand it’s very expensive. The health department will see anybody, but,
there’s an unfunded, I should say non-funded government mandate, that all people
regardless of the language they speak will have access to health care. But it’s
unfunded so people get turned away at the health department.

I: Oh yeah?

A: yeah. But we’re fighting that battle now. I’ve been on that battle for about half a
day, every day this week, so we’re almost coming to a halt with that problem.

I: I remember how u said something about how the immigrants are provided
services for six months, but, I don’t know…from my position that doesn’t really
seem like too long of a time. What happens after six months?

A: Umm, after six months I help them to re-apply for the food stamps and most of
them will become re-certified for that service. Another problem though is that, yes
we want our people to become self sufficient, but there’s a lack of jobs in the
community for anybody, especially those that don’t require a educational
background like factory jobs and stuff. We have such a shortage of those jobs. Many
people have been here for over a year and are still unemployed. Or they may work
temporary jobs here and there.

I: yeah?

A: umm hmm

I: I was just going to ask you about that. What are some of the other barriers to
becoming self sufficient?

A: that job piece is very big and also umm [sighs, pause to think] transportation for
people. Somebody might have a job but they have a job that needs daycare but the
only day care opening is across town and their job is on the other side of town. And
our public transportation isn’t the best.

I: I know that

A: I’m glad it’s there but it isn’t the best. It might take all day to just to get a kid to
daycare and then get to your job.

I: I feel you. What do you think agencies or the city of Greensboro could do to help
with the process of becoming self sufficient?
A: Um, people should consider sponsoring refugee families. What that means is that
there may be a group of people, whether from faith organizations, or just a friend or
any kind fellowship group. They can sponsor a family through one of our local
refugee resettlement agencies which would be World Relief or Lutheran Family
Services. The sponsorship peace would mean that you just assist the family with
meeting the basic needs. You teach them how to navigate the bus line and get to
the main places they need like the health department, the school, the hospital,
grocery store. We have families that don’t even know how to use a stove. They’ve
never seen a stove or a refrigerator before. They’ve never seen a toilet before. And
we have to show them how to do these things. So if the community steps up and
develop a care and interest in our newcomers we can help them to meet their goals
much quicker. But as of now, probably about five percent or less in Guilford County
has a sponsor.

I: oh yeah…I see

A: And the case worker from the refugee resettlement agencies are only able to help
but so much because as a single person, you may have a case load of 100 or more
families, and you have to keep up with all of their appointments and all of their
needs. It becomes an impossibility.

I: So I’m guessing those case workers have a few assistants…somebody to help


them out? I know they don’t do all that work by themselves

A: No

I: they don’t do all those cases by themselves do they?

A: Yes. And so many things are left undone. For example we have many people who
have come to the country four months ago and they still haven’t been to the health
department for their initial physical. Because they don’t know how to get to the
health department, or they’ve been to the health department but they’ve been
turned away because they don’t have an interpreter with them.

I: So it sounds like the community plays a real big role in helping incorporate the
immigrants into society.

A: Yes. That’s the key right there.

I: What do you think is the hardest part about adjusting to this society?

A: I think most of my families, they want so badly to be self sufficient and they feel
so frustrated because they can’t find employment, or they may get hired by a
company and then fired because of the language barrier. Or some people may not
have ever worked in their life and they come here and want to work but they don’t
know how to do the job. And the boss can’t communicate the directions to them on
how to do the job. And so these parents become frustrated and depression sinks in
and you have a plethora of other problems.

I: You think language is one of the most important barriers?

A: Language and employment, yes.

I: I see. Umm, just for the city of Greensboro, do you think this is a culturally diverse
place?

A: I think it is fabulously diverse. You have people from all over the world here. It’s
great. But I don’t think it’s acknowledged enough or celebrated enough.

I: OK, I think you’re right about that. Um, in what ways is your organization helping
the community become aware of the immigrant population?

A: Well we’ve been in the media a lot. As a new school people have an interest in
what we’re doing and what we’re about. Through the media coverage, that brings
awareness. And me myself, I make a lot of contacts with community members, to
try to get them involved, and then the word spreads.

I: so how successful do you think you guys have been in raising community
awareness?

A: that’s a hard thing for me to answer, I don’t have a way to really measure that.

I: Yeah you’re right. How would somebody even measure that?

A: I think the media have been very successful and all the media coverage has been
very positive.

I: OK, that’s cool. So in your opinion, how do most people in Greensboro feel about
the immigrant community? Are the open to it?

A: I get so many mixed responses in that area. Umm…some….I would say in general
are supportive of the immigrant and refugee populations. But, the key players don’t
seem to be. For example employers.

I: yeah

A: And I understand where that comes from. It’s all about economics and
production. But I wish that we had some….kind of job training programs available….
or something that can help in a better capacity.

I: yeah

A: umm hmm
I: speaking of community involvement, just the other week I was at a conference at
the Beloved Community Center, about building black and brown, Latino and African
American relations. I thinks that’s a really important aspect, building unity in the
community. I think the more connections we make among minority groups, the
better off we’ll all be. But umm, what do you think the major differences are
between major US cities and smaller areas like the triad for immigrants?

I: well the major cities, of course, have very large groups of diverse populations who
are more established. They might have been here for decades and so there are
more business and therefore there may be more jobs available. And the need to
speak English is not as pressing because they have cultural neighborhoods or
districts. Well as here, we don’t have that. I wish we did but we don’t. And so it
makes the employment piece more difficult and it makes the umm…[sigh]…just
families feeling connected more difficult. I think we have more poverty and
depression because of that.

A: oh yeah

I: umm hmm

A: You think that here in the triad area immigrants are discriminated against?

I: Oh yeah, definitely. And they discriminate against one another as well.

I: Yeah?

A: For example, there’s a factory in Reedsville that employs a lot of immigrants. But,
the Latinos seem to have reign over that factory. You know there’s always fear and
insecurity in your job security, so they try to push the other people out. Or they try
to set them up to make it look like they’ve made a mistake, or make it look like
they’ve damaged something when they didn’t. And then we have fights over there
because of this.

I: Yeah?

A: umm hmm. So we’re really trying to keep our families away from that factory but
unfortunately it’s one of the only places that will hire them.

I: Oh yeah? I hadn’t thought too much about discrimination amongst each other.

A: And it’s been around since the beginning of time, the beginning of America.
Uhhh, of course when the Irish and the English and all the other European groups
came over they all discriminated against each other and it was all because of job
security and territory.

I: You know, I often wonder what’s more damaging, discrimination from each other,
or discrimination from the oppressor. What do you think?
A: Ummmmmm [thinking]. Of course amongst each other because….your local
community, your neighbors, they’re what’s closer to you. It’s all really harmful.

I: Now I’m just about done but before I finish…it’s going to bother me if I don’t ask
you, what something that a typical young guy, without too much money, can do to
build unity, not only among African Americans or Latinos, but all minority
populations here in Greensboro.

A: I think the first thing to do on the very basic level is just to be a warm friendly
person. Especially if you see somebody who you can tell just by their voice or dress
is new and might be in a minority situation. Make them feel comfortable. Make eye
contact, smile, get to know that person. You never know, they might be lonely, they
might not have any friends or support. You can make a difference in that person’s
life by being a warm friendly person

I: OK, OK. That’s it for the questions [school bell rings]

A: You want to see the school???\

I: Yeah I do want to see that. Do you want to talk about anything else before I turn
this [point to recorder] off?

A: It seems like there would be a lot for us to talk about, because I’m very interested
in what you’re studying and its seems like you’re very interested in what we do, so
it would be nice if you could come around more often.

I: yeah, yeah, I feel you. Well let me go ahead and turn this off.