Business, Central New York, Community, Education, Non-profit, Syracuse

How one Syracuse refugee family battled language barrier to start a new life

(c) Eshalaxmi Barlingay

By Eshalaxmi Barlingay SYRACUSE (NCC News) – There are around 9,500 refugees in the Onondaga County since the last 10 years, many of them from Bhutan, Syria, Africa, Somalia and many from other middle eastern countries.

One of them was Angeton Mouity. Mouity and his family were refugees from the Republic of Combo in Central Africa. They arrived in Syracuse in 1995. “It was not easy, I wouldn’t say that it was easy,” said Mouity.

Mouity’s mother tongue was French and Congolose. However when they arrived in Syracuse, they had various challenges lined up. “No one would hire refugees because of the language barrier. We woul not understand what the manager would say,” added Mouity. “It was very difficult to land a job.”

Mouity worked in a kitchen for 15 years. He and his brother Ullys Mouity then decided to have their own buisiness, The Taste of Africa restaurant.

“When we arrived at Syracuse and started going to school, people used to call us by names, tease us because we did not speak the same language,” said Saida Balume, sister of Ullys Mouity’s wife.

Language Barrier and cultural adjustment are one the biggest problems refugees face here.

Jay Subedi, a refugee from Bhutan, faced the same. “I came to Syracuse but did not know how to communicate,” said Subedi. His first job at Subway was difficult too. “I could not understand anyone’s orders,” he said.

But then he taught himself and his family and now works at Interfaith Works, an organization that serves refugees of Syracuse. “We are trying to do much in the community level, to empower them (refugees) to do their own work, citizenship classes, ESL (English as second language) test, ESL class, some other things. But still that is a big challenge,” added Subedi.

Subedi is one of the 86 transition team members on Syracuse’s new Mayor elect, Ben Walsh’s committee. He now aims to ease Refugee’s life and provide job and education opportunities to them. “We have to create more business in the city, we have to create more jobs in the city,” said Subedi.