Noble library continues to welcome Nepalese refugees
For close to a decade, Bhutanese and Nepali refugees have been arriving in the Greater Cleveland area. Last year, ASIA Inc. estimated 400–500 Bhutanese families have resettled in Cleveland Heights.
As these refugees bring hope, optimism and a desire to learn, they contribute to making Cleveland Heights a better place. Noble Neighborhood Library sees this during its Welcome Hub hours.
“[The Welcome Hub] is this idea of having space that people can go to and acquire resources,” said Jessica Markowitz, a youth services associate at Noble Neighborhood Library. “If there is anyone in the community that does speak English as their native language but wants to connect to the non-native English-speaking community, they are more than welcome to join.”
Noble Neighborhood Library currently partners with ASIA Inc. and ABLE (Adult Basic Literacy and Education) to provide language and citizenship classes to all community members. ABLE's programs, in all 88 Ohio counties, provide free adult basic education and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.
English language classes are a staple of the refugee programs and services offered at the library. These classes are different from many English language classes in that the volunteers who run the classes often tailor lessons to student needs. For example, because a significant portion of the students are working to attain their temporary driver’s licenses, instructors are incorporating driving-related vocabulary into the lessons.
The Welcome Hub is not limited to classes. “Our group on Saturday, which is one of our informal English classes, also functions as a community space,” said Markowitz. “Not too long ago we had a celebration; we had a potluck and dancing.”
The community space that the Welcome Hub provides enables refugee families to gather, celebrate and meet new people. All community members are encouraged to join in these gatherings.
Noble Neighborhood Library, in an effort to provide programming for Nepalese and Bhutanese children, offers a Nepali language class. According to a Noble Elementary School representative, refugee children make up almost 10 percent of its student population. The school works to improve English and literacy skills in children. The Nepali language classes, which were started by a Nepalese refugee volunteer, seek to help children learn and retain the Nepali language.
The volunteer who began the program thought it was culturally important for Nepali children learn and retain their native language. However, the class is not limited to the Nepalese or refugees. All children with a desire to learn Nepali are welcome to attend.
Heights Libraries, in cooperation with ASIA Inc. and ABLE, hope to serve all refugees, immigrants and nonnative English speakers for years to come. For more information, visit www.heightslibrary.org or call 216-291-5665.
Kara Whaley is the communications coordinator at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.