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From: Deena Flinchum [e-mail her]
When government officials were looking for a place to settle them, they came up with Kansas. They must have thought, "Why not? Wasn't Senator Brownback a leading proponent of bringing them here?"
So they are right for, oh, say, Virginia?
Blacksburg, VA, my hometown, has accepted several Somali Bantu refugee families.
My next door neighbor, a kind and caring person and the mother of three young children, became part of a committee to help them settle in and to get the children enrolled in school. One of her tasks was to take some of the women shopping.
One day I ran into her in the local grocery store where she was with a Bantu woman with two very young children and a girl who looked as if she might be in her early teens. She introduced me to the woman, who didn't speak English, so we both nodded and smiled.
Later that day when my neighbor and I were in our front yards, I asked her how she helps them shop when language had to be a major problem.
She replied that X spoke English quite well. X, she explained, was the pregnant one.
I said that I had thought that X was a young girl. She was wearing a flowing robe and I couldn't tell she was pregnant. My neighbor agreed that she was a young girl – 16-years-old and pregnant with her second child.
Later I learned that wife beating was a problem in the Bantu community and that one mother had expressed dismay that her young daughter might not be valued for marriage because she couldn't undergo female genital mutilation here in the US. Another woman was unhappy because she had been separated from her family.
She was a lesser wife in a polygamous marriage. Her husband and his first wife were in another city.
A couple of years ago Blacksburg was named one of the most tech savvy and Internet connected places in the US, thanks largely to Virginia Tech, our leading employer.
What are we supposed to do to integrate these families into this community? What sort of life will X have here as the mother of two children when she is younger than a Virginia Tech freshman?