Submitted by Jaymi Anderson
In 2006, the face of Weld County changed dramatically with the arrival of more than 1,000 Somalian war refugees. Initially hired to fill job vacancies at JBS, these immigrants have made Greeley their home and are looking for ways to better themselves and establish long-term careers.
The East African Community of Colorado, Inc, (EACC) is a non-profit formed by Somali elders, as a means to assist, educate and assimilate refugees into the foreign community they now call home. Their mission is “to improve [the refugees’] quality of life by implementing programs in education, health, finances, cultural integration and civil and human rights that lead to self-sufficiency and self-reliance.”
EACC began small in 2008, renting a downtown office space to serve as a resource center, but has since expanded. In January 2009, the first English class began, eventually followed by GED and citizenship courses. Christ Community Church then offered them rent-free space in the former Cameron Elementary School in 2010, which allowed for more program development.
Currently, EACC offers five levels of English, GED assistance, driver’s training, citizenship classes and an after school program. From 9:00am until 5:00pm every Monday-Friday, the office is open as a resource for referrals, documentation and record keeping, and translation services. In addition, the East African Community of Colorado has formed partnerships with Lutheran Social Services and United Way, and now serves immigrants and refugees from 19 different countries - Mexico, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Libya, Thailand, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, and Burma (Mayanmar).
The East African Community of Colorado recognizes that navigating a new homeland is difficult and seeks to help immigrants and refugees integrate into the community while enabling them to preserve their own culture. Likewise, it serves as a resource for businesses, medical professionals, educators, etc., who have questions regarding cultural norms or need translation assistance in their interaction with its members.
On a typical day at EACC, you may find individuals seeking help to find housing, filling out job applications, needing a ride to a medical appointment, and attending English classes. President Asad Abdi, Vice President Colette West, and Community Outreach Coordinator Emily Lance, all of whom work full-time without compensation, staff the office. Twenty-nine other volunteers also teach classes, run programs, and help where needed.