Enactus Provides Aid for Refugee Communities of Amarillo

Preston Thomas, Co-Editor

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On a sunny, windy Saturday, members of WT’s Enactus program gathered at the Astoria Park Apartments in Amarillo, TX. The sprawling complex is home to a large community of refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and WT students and locals alike, have been engaging with the families living there. The occasion for the day was the opening of the new geothermal greenhouse, built after the Enactus team received the $1500 Unilever Bright Future grant.

Evelyn Lyles plays Duck Duck Goose with a group of kids at Astoria Park.

“We came out here to play soccer with them and help with homework originally,” Kelsey Pruett, Enactus COB and Project manager at Astoria Park. “From that, we have gardens in the back and we decided to build a greenhouse. It’s fully sustainable, with a geothermal ventilation system.”

The ventilation system monitors the temperature of the greenhouse, and utilizes underground pipes to blow in cool air and control the temperature to protect growing plants.

“We’re going to add solar panels in the winter so that it can provide heat too,” Pruett said. “If you know WT, and the panhandle, you know that the weather is crazy all the time.”

To celebrate the completion of the greenhouse, the volunteers organized a planting party event on April 9. Children of all ages were gathered to play soccer and other games, paint pots and plant the first herbs and vegetables in the greenhouse. The adults were given a presentation on balanced nutrition, and sign-up sheets for little-league soccer were passed around. Throughout the event, kids continually translated English into several different languages for their parents, as many of the adult refugees still have limited English skills.

Parents and kids gather around a table to see the plants destined for the greenhouse.

“We would like to start a citizenship test study program for the parents,” Pruett said, also mentioning that many adults had difficulty with the spoken portion of the US citizenship test.

Enrique Mire, a graduate student and Enactus project member, was one of several volunteers present, playing games with the kids and helping set up stations for activities.

“We try to be mentors for the kids, help them with their homework, get them adjusted to the lifestyle here, the culture,” Mire said.

One of the primary difficulties facing the children at Astoria Park is language skills. According to Pruett, many of the refugees have trouble keeping up with English speaking

“A lot of them can fall behind like that,” Pruett said. “Whenever they come to us we take them through it

According to Jalee Blackwell, another volunteer, the work done by the Enactus team has already begun to show results over the last semester.

Romy Simbu joins in the game.

“We encourage them to strive for academic excellence,” Romy Simbu, junior Accounting major and Enactus volunteer, said.

According to Evelyn Lyles, a volunteer at Astoria Park, the project provides a community center in one of the apartments, ESL classes, clubs for children and teens and even a group for pregnant mothers.

“A lot of the relationships that have come out of it are sweet,” Pruett said. “They’re just sweet to have.Once you hang out with them, you just start appreciating more. They don’t want stuff, they just want to hang out with you.”

Zen Zuun is a refugee child from Burma who came to Amarillo 3 years ago.

“A lot is different, like the food and how we act or go shopping,” Zuun said. “My favorite thing is my relationships with friends.”

Children paint pots for the greenhouse.

Enactus isn’t done at Astoria Park, with plans to build more greenhouses as well as install rain collectors throughout the complex. The volunteers aim to continue their efforts to help the refugees acclimate to life in the Texas Panhandle, and thrive here.

The organization also works with the Patsy Place program using money from the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment grant. The program provides a transitional home for women recently released from incarceration, and provides services to assist the women in seeking employment.

“We personally help with the public speaking aspect,” Pruett said. “How to tell people hey I’ve been in prison but I still deserve this job.”

Patsy Place also provides transportation to job interviews, and according to Pruett 12 women have already been hired to new jobs.

 

View an album of these images and more in higher resolution at https://imgur.com/a/GLhps

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