SDOP Awards Agape African Senior Citizens Center

The Self-Development of People  (Presbytery of Philadelphia has awarded the Agape Senior Citizens Center a $5,000.00 Grant. The center, run by Rev. John K. Jallah has initiated the Elderly Refugee and Immigrant US Citizenship Campaign. This is a ten-month US Citizenship preparatory training for non-English speaking refugees and immigrants who are in the last stage of the window of opportunity allotted from date of arrival to becoming citizens.   The goal of this project is to educate members of the group in literacy and writing and increase their capacity to communicate in English to assist them in possibly passing their citizenship test. This will also enable them to interact with others and improve chances for employment.  They will be holding ESL/Literacy classes will be held twice a week with volunteers from Trained ESL/Adult Literacy Teachers.

agapeThe AGAPE African Senior Citizens Center combats the loneliness and isolation culturally and socially experienced by elderly African refugees and immigrants by facilitating peer support groups, providing instruction in English and living skills thereby defusing their frustration and depression and promoting their self-dependence and self-esteem. Provides English classes; traditional knowledge and skills; transportation; health education; advocacy and referrals; opportunities to practice acquired skills. Partially funded by Bread and Roses Community Fund. Mon to Fri, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

This project originated among older adults living in Philadelphia who are immigrants from West African nations, especially Liberia. They came to the United States to escape the violent conflicts that have been too common in that region. Many of these senior citizens were having great difficulty adjusting to their new life in the USA.

They needed to learn English and to develop basic survival skills, such as how to use public transportation, what to say when you need to call the police, how to find houses by number (no mean feat when you’re used to village living in Africa!). Issues continued to emerge; for instance, the phrases used by older African women to describe medical conditions would not have the same meaning to American doctors. And family structure was increasingly a source of confusion and heartache. The older adults typically live with their children, but these children are rarely home, because they are working long hours to support the family. And the grandchildren, who have adapted quickly to America, now despise their grandparents who struggle with English and seem so backward – a far cry from the respect for elders that is the norm in African culture.

Among these African senior citizens are some who have adapted fairly well to life in the US. These are typically those who had some portion of their education in the States. These people have become the instructors and mentors for their peers who are struggling, teaching English and basic life skills. They also share how to access available services and how to come together to advocate change.