MSU Extension program instructor overcomes language barrier to teach nutrition to refugees

Imelda Galdamez is happy. She’s happy about what she refers to as an “amazing accomplishment” for Michigan State University Extension. What’s happened that has Imelda, an MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, so excited?

Many refugees from the Middle East and Africa live in District 11, which includes Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Overcoming language and cultural barriers to make significant connections with this population as well as overcoming barriers to partner with other organizations to make that happen presents a challenge.

Imelda supervises MSU Extension program instructor Sulaiman Mansour. Sulaiman worked diligently to secure partnerships with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) of Detroit, Lutheran Social Services of Macomb County and Lutheran Social Services of Oakland County to provide nutrition classes to recently resettled refugees.

Sulaiman teaches a nutrition class once a week for two hours at all three partner locations. He includes a short physical activity, information about healthy eating, food safety, community resources and goal assessment.

Able to speak Arabic and some African dialects, Sulaiman possesses the language skills to effectively teach our curriculum, Eating Right Is Basic, to this audience. Sulaiman uses PowerPoint presentations to deliver the education in their native languages. Not only that, he uses pictorials of their native foods to adapt the curriculum to meet their needs.

Imelda said, “I can honestly say this is the first time in District 11 that MSUE has established concrete working relationships with the refugee communities. Sulaiman’s passion, dedication, and ability to sit down with these agencies and work something out is something to be proud of.”

As a bonus, the number of participants in SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) has increased due to the partnerships. Congratulations to Sulaiman and Imelda, and thanks to them for their leadership!

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