The Role of the Cultural Expert in a Skills Training Program for Refugees: A Case Study of the Sew You Know Program

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2016-11-09
Authors
URIYO, ANGELA
HA-BROOKSHIRE, JUNG
NORUM, PAMELA
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Abstract

This case study was designed to explore the assimilation experience of an African refugee group, via a skills training program, Sew You Know, in a small mid-Western city. This program, sponsored by a local Caucasian-majority church since 2009, focused on developing basic sewing skills. The program used a cultural expert as a mediator between the organizers and the participants. Using in-depth interviews, data were collected from 12 participants, aged between 23 and 71, and had either served as organizers (5), the cultural expert (1), or participants (6) in the program. The findings show an unqualified cultural expert who negatively impacted the assimilation processes of participants in the program. Therefore, the findings recommend that a more careful selection of proper and qualified cultural experts, as well as proper training and compensation for them, are critical for meaningful and successful assimilation experiences of the refugee populations in the US.

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