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Checking in With the International Institute of St. Louis

Recently, the St. Lucas group supporting an Afghan family sat down, virtually, with the International Institute to review our progress.

The family’s father has recently gotten his driving permit. Sometimes an immigrant’s first job in our country can involve driving, although a car is an expensive acquisition. We hope the Institute’s “employment group” can suggest other choices with decent income opportunities.

The family had been briefed on the use of WIC and EBT cards, the latter sometimes still called food stamps. Still, the difficulties of applying and waiting for authorization has resulted in the family taking on some new debt. This is a challenge that we are addressing. An added issue is the Islamic tradition of desiring meat products that are halal (permissible), which refers to the method of butchering. This designation makes them more expensive and generally only available at Afghan markets.

We have learned, through our coaching at the food store, that the WIC program, though cumbersome, encourages fresh food choices. The program focuses on families with small children. But, navigating the shelf markings for WIC-allowed fruits, vegetables and dairy products, takes a sharp eye. This is another reason to learn English ASAP, which these new families have quickly realized.

Our IISTL advisor noted that 200 Afghan immigrants are in STL so far, and 600 more are on the way. She mused over the burden ahead. She also noted that the IISTL did little ongoing oversight, expecting the immigrants to quickly become independent, implying that we should have the same goal.

We may make progress on another goal; several church members have offered help in finding sewing opportunities for the family’s mother, who hopes to work at home. English will be the problem, but we again may find tutoring help from our own congregation. Every bump in this road has been softened by St. Lucas UCC. Thank you all.

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