Culture shock

Afghan refugee families in New Bedford are experiencing culture shock

Helena DaSilva-Hughes, president of the New Bedford Immigrant Serving Center, didn’t lie when she said that the immigrants who escaped the murderous Taliban in Afghanistan come from a culture so different from ours.

“We eat on tables with chairs, in their culture, the family eats on the floor!” she says. “Unlike here, there are no photos of loved ones that can be hung on the walls because it’s against their Muslim faith.”

Massachusetts expected to take in about 1,000 Afghan refugees as part of its resettlement effort, and DaSilva-Hughes had previously said she expected “four to five” families to arrive in New Bedford to start.

“Four families have already arrived and are living in New Bedford, and if we can find additional housing, more families will come here in the future,” DaSilva-Hughes said. “But housing is, by far, the biggest challenge we have right now.”

The other difficult task is to find accommodation close to each other, so that the families can socialize with each other as they speak very little English.

“We find that the women coming in are illiterate, so we’re starting a literacy class,” DaSilva-Hughes said. “We have a mother in her early twenties, with two kids, who can’t even write her name. That’s what we’re seeing.”

DaSilva-Hughes said an overwhelming number of people have asked how they can help. Finding accommodation and getting transport to and from the mosque are, overall, the most critical needs at this time.

“New Bedford has always been a city that welcomed immigrants,” she said. “Fortunately, the families from Afghanistan who have been here (and) integrated for a few years are a godsend to help and communicate with the newcomers.”

And in addition to the city still welcoming immigrants, we owe a debt of gratitude to many of these Afghan refugees because they have been so helpful to our troops over the past two decades and risked death if they remained in place.

“Why not help the people who helped us? Immigrants come here because they want to come. Refugees come because they have to come,” DaSilva-Hughes said.

We will continue to tell you about the Afghan families in New Bedford who are starting a new life.

Top 35 Highest Paying Jobs on the South Coast

Looking to start a new career or not sure which way to go after high school? Here are the best paying jobs here on the South Coast that might help you decide.