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Refugee Family Is Settling In

Since the last news that we posted, our Afghan family has learned more and has continued to step carefully into our foreign culture. Their six year old seems to have “taken” to her classes. We can’t wait to hear her speak in English; no doubt she will be her parents’ best teacher.

The three year old seems happy at home, taking anyone’s phone or tablet if they lay it down. She charms us with her smiles and handshakes. We hope to enroll her in the fall in a preschool class tailored for kids with Down Syndrome, where she is on a wait list.

She and the baby accompanied their parents to their first doctor visits at the Medicaid office, where an appointment has to be made two months in advance. In spite of the crowded office and short staff, the State kindly furnishes an interpreter that meets us at the door, and nicely smooths the bumps in the Medicaid experience.

During the father’s physical, he explained that he had received shrapnel in his head and that it caused headaches. The doctor scheduled a CAT scan and Paul Litzsinger agreed to take him to Barnes. We called the lab the day before the the scan to ensure that insurance coverage was in place, and discovered—no. But we were assured that they would call the doctor to resolve the issue. It didn’t. Paul convinced the lab to go ahead, and we now hope to help keep a bill collector off the family’s porch.

Later in the week, we took the mother to the DMV on Kingshighway to get a non-driving ID. Having experienced my share of DMV drama, I appreciated the pleasant clerk who shot the photo. Not knowing the proper protocol, I looked away when she lowered her veil. The clerk asked her if she liked it, then explained delivery details to me and gave me time to clarify everything to this new St. Louis resident. A nice experience.

We then drove to Joann Fabrics where the mom and dad finally got to shop for fabric that she could choose herself (fabric is expensive!). We also stopped at the City Sewing Room, but buying fabric and notions by the pound was too weird to explain.

The International Institute (IISTL) told us several times that the family could apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TAF), which, with three children, might amount to about $200 per month. Not a great sum, but that and food support could make a big difference during the coming months in which they qualify.

The really good news is that the father got a job at Louisa Foods. A friend told him of the manufacturer in Jennings, and they share rides. The pay is modest, but the place gets good reviews. Considering the good: the job, the support by friends, the support from St. Lucas, his motivation to find a job asap; and the bad: the debt that he incurred while waiting for a SNAP card, the medical issues, the new language and culture, he will likely do well in this new country. He has a bank account and, when he gets a license, a promise of a used car. A St. Lucas congregant even helped by paying down part of his debt. A lucky family.

In our meeting last week (the father and supporters) with the IISTL, they basically told him that their support would soon end. His advisor when through the benefits that he had received from them, but did not offer to help tie up loose ends, like a missing birth certificate or financial and banking information.

So we feel like there are still some loose ends that we can help with, doctor coordination, utility concerns, maybe school issues. So some of us intend to stick with them a bit longer.

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