It’s about safety for our children,” Salwa Mohsen Alsuraimi says to a group of about 25 people who took part in a cultural competency training this past week hosted by the Community Coalition for Change. She tells us Yemeni and other immigrants come here to escape civil war and for jobs — for a better future for their children.
Salwa is first generation woman from Yemen; she’s president of Aira of Coldwater (a not-for-profit group that provides translation services, drivers training and other services to break down cultural barriers). She has been in this country with her family since she was two.
She notes there are about 2000 people from Yemen in the Coldwater area; approximately 80% of the adults are illiterate in both English and Arabic, which means need for her services are high.
Salwa talked of the immigrant experience, of the wishes and dreams people have for themselves and their children. She spoke of the fear and confusion many immigrants feel when they come to what is still perceived as the promised land. She explained the vetting process that is already in existence, and noted that to bring a wife or husband over takes between one to eight years. A brother or other relative may take as many as 15 years.
Salwa hopes that by offering trainings to local groups such as ours (she recently did a
training for a local dentist and his staff, aimed at helping them to better serve their community), we can begin to know and understand each other more.
She stressed repeatedly that while there may be cultural differences, the wearing of a veil, marriage contracts, etc., we all want the same things: opportunities for ourselves, to be kind to others and to provide our children with chances we may not have had.
Salwa is engaging, encourages questions and responds honestly to queries from her audience. It was an informative, enjoyable evening.