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Federal grants approved to help elderly refugees in New Hampshire

Mon Timsina communicates volumes with her nimble hands. She waves one at the window when she talks about her friends in Concord, or about the long journeys she used to make from her farm in Bhutan to religious sites. Then she gently, slowly rubs her knees when she talks about how it’s getting harder and harder for her and her friends to get around.

Timsina is 73, and most of her friends in Concord are also elderly refugees who resettled here from Bhutan. And though they can communicate a lot with a gesture and a smile, they can’t speak English, even though they try to learn.

With her broad smile and alert, animated eyes, Timsina loves to joke, laugh and talk.

“I love to interact with all people,” she said through an interpreter at her Concord apartment yesterday.

When she first arrived in Concord four years ago, volunteers brought Timsina and her husband to see the ocean, a local farm and a temple.

“Even to thank them, I don’t have the language skills and that makes me upset,” Timsina said. “I was a farmer back home. I know how to farm. That’s it.”

And so her world is circumscribed to her apartment complex, her friends and relatives.

New federal grants approved this month by the Executive Council will help local agencies fight the social isolation often faced by Timsina and other elderly refugees when they resettle.

In the past 15 years, more than 6,800 refugees have resettled in New Hampshire; more than 1,300 have resettled in Concord in the past decade. The federal government provides certain support through resettlement agencies for the first three months after they arrive, and some support for the first year. Other programs, especially in schools, are available for all refugees regardless of how long they’ve been in America.

The new grants are the first effort to reach out specifically to older refugees, said Amy Marchildon, executive director of Lutheran Social Services, which resettles refugees primarily in Concord and Laconia. The federal funding provides $300,000 to Lutheran and two other groups to use through 2015.

Lutheran plans to hire a bicultural coordinator in the next month who can bridge the gap between the agency and the older refugees, Marchildon said.

“This is a population that may tend to fall through the cracks. Learning new things when one is older may be more challenging, and the younger people have more opportunities to interact with the broader community” through school or work, she said.

She estimated the coordinator would likely identify and visit 50 refugees over the age of 60 each year, and refer about 35 of them to community-based services for elderly residents.

Though no plans are concrete yet, she was excited about several ideas the agency has developed as possibilities, including one focused on intergenerational partnerships.

The vision is that younger refugees who need exposure to American workplace culture could volunteer in partnership with an older refugee in a public setting like a hospital or nursing home, distributing books or visiting with patients.

“It would provide an opportunity for younger refugees who have the language skills and easily transferable work skills to gain experience mentoring older refugees, who get a chance to be out of the house, interacting with more people and improving their language,” Marchildon said. “After a few months, the younger refugee will have experience in a workplace, and hopefully a reference for employment applications.”

Lutheran officials have also discussed forming a speakers’ bureau for elderly refugees who have strong English speaking abilities to visit community groups and share their culture and personal stories, she said.

The Manchester-based Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, a nonprofit organization founded by refugees, is one of the two other groups that also received the funding. They plan to help older refugees complete training and paperwork to take their citizenship tests. Lutheran’s coordinator would likely work with that group to find and identify people who need that help, Marchildon said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Legacy Comments5

Democrats and Obama finally have a budget for you to see where they put their priorities.....the democrats and Obama slash help to the lower income , disabled and elderly - that is the REAL democrats you need to get to know.....not the baloney image their PR machine supported by the liberal media that they focus on the democrat low information voter

What about federal grants for elderly Americans who worked all their lives, provided and fought for our country. Sick of refugees getting everything handed to them, welfare, medical, dental, food stamps, cars, clothes, houses, education, jobs and even Social Security disability benefits. It is not fair that Americans are put on the back burner and suffering financially, homeless, jobless, denied Social Security benefits when they are legitimately disabled, among other things. Gee, the refugees have everything that was taken away from the Americans. Though Americans never had cars handed to them. What ever happened to our country??? What is wrong with this picture? Wish I had a free pass to all of these.

I agree, my mother in law gets $700 a month from her late husbands SS. She's 84. Thank God my wife and I can help her along the way. Were is her grant for being a hard working American mother and great grandmother who gave her all to this country. I'm with you, take care of our own first. If she doesn't like it let her go back to where she came from.

YEAH, THOSE DAMN REFUGEES!!!! Like the boy who grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal and graduated last year from Concord High with the highest Chemistry average in his class and a full-boat scholarship to BC, who just obtained his U.S. citizenship in a ceremony at the college, first Bhutanese refugee in the COUNTRY to become a U.S. Citizen. The kid who is going to be a doctor or scientist some day and could possibly cure cancer or AIDS. Yeah . . . who needs people like that in this country????

Concerned-Citizen, One word answer to your question, Democrats.

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