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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

UNHCR News Story: Language class helps refugees span cultural gaps in Costa Rica

African students in Spanish language classes for refugees and asylum-seekers from outside the region. 
© UNHCR/E.Kastelz
Language class helps refugees span cultural gaps in Costa Rica
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, July 26 (UNHCR) – Bangalay came to Costa Rica by accident. He arrived while travelling from his native Côte d'Ivoire, heading towards what he believed was the United States. However, the ship he boarded left him in Panama and after being detained for some time, he managed to take a bus to Costa Rica, where he sought asylum.
This explains how the 17-year-old came to be seated in a Spanish class created exclusively for asylum-seekers and refugees from outside the Americas living in San José, the capital of Costa Rica.
The Association of International Consultants and Advisors (ACAI), a non-governmental organization that has been implementing UNHCR programmes since the 1990s, developed a programme in May last year that offers Spanish classes twice per week.
"The classes are a great support system for them," said Gloria Maklouf, director of ACAI. "All of the students fled their home countries to save their lives. Now, during the classes, they are able to talk with each other and share their experiences. Language is an indispensable tool for their integration process and for finding work."
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