Library Program Carries On Efforts To Get Burmese Into Mainstream Fort Wayne Life

By Jeff Neumeyer

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 6:25 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- A cultural awareness event Wednesday is part of an ongoing effort to help Fort Wayne get acquainted with the values and practices of some of its newest neighbors, the Burmese.

The event held at the downtown branch of the Allen County Public Library is the latest in a series of Burmese cultural programs.

Those who attended were able to hear success stories from Burmese who've settled in the U.S, learn of immigration services available to those refugees, and get counsel on employment issues, including rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

The Burmese Advocacy Center on South Calhoun Street is a lifeline of sorts for Burmese trying to get acclimated to their new home.

In the basement of the building, a computer room offers training for refugees who will likely need computer skills for jobs.

A room next door helps Burmese hone their sewing skills, to try and get work at places like Vera Bradley or with Manpower temporary employment services.

Patrick Proctor/Burmese Advocacy Center Legal Counsel: " Cause they're really thrown in here and it's system shock for them, but the idea behind these events we're putting on, the cultural diversity, is really to outreach to the Americans, the people that have lived here, so they can come and learn more about the Burmese, what they've been through and understand the struggles they're facing."

A local laundry business is bearing much of the cost for programs like the one at the library.

Ricker's Laundry on South Calhoun was the subject of a Metropolitan Human Relations Commission probe after a sign was posted at the business, saying, “No Burmese Allowed”.

That action surfaced after some Burmese patrons were reportedly spitting and urinating inside the establishment.

Ricker's apologized and paid a penalty, the money going to the Burmese center for cultural education.

The center has handled nearly 11,000 client requests for service since October 2009.

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