Cultural Specialists are imperative to the educational success and proper guidance of refugee and immigrant families and students. The education system in Buffalo is difficult for anyone to understand, so imagine trying to break it down when English isn’t your first language.
The Buffalo Public School District has hired six Cultural Specialists in the top six most spoken languages in Buffalo; Karen; Burmese; Nepali; Arabic; Spanish; Somali. These specialists will lead the community down the right path to finding the right school for their children. Among their responsibilities are: to make sure parents get correct information about the district, to translate and interpret, to help with the registration process, and making sure parents enroll their children in the right school, to name a few.
This week, we would like to introduce you two of the six cultural specialist: Lamin Tamang for the Nepali community and Laura Revilla for the Spanish community.
Tell us a little about your background and what you do here?
My name is Lamin Tamang and I am originally from Bhutan. I was exiled for 20 years in the refugee camps in Eastern Nepal. I came to Buffalo on February 22nd, 2012 with my wife as a refugee. I’ve been struggling in the west side of buffalo as a student at ECC. This is my final year, I graduate May 18. I got this position as registration cultural aid for Nepali families and children. I enjoy music with my friends, we have a small musical group called rhythm musical group of buffalo, where we play light music. I work in the community and I am the President of the Bhutanese-Nepali community of Buffalo. We have friends working together to help the needy families in the community. I love what I am doing in this welcoming city.
Why did you decide to apply for this position?
I have been much more inclined towards helping needy families and children from the very beginning. I have years of experience back home working in the community, selflessly without getting a single penny. This is one of the best opportunities where I can advocate directly from the essential department for the families and children of our growing and vibrant community. I believe I am here to advocate and empower those families and children. I have the privilege to work directly with every individual.
What are your aspirations for the community?
We are here as new immigrants and newcomers in this city. People have so many daily challenges from reading the mail, to finding jobs and getting a better education for their young children. We are actually struggling to make every individual, children, and family independent through the means of education. I believe education is the backbone for achieving higher goals in life. This would definitely help to make self-sufficient professionals in the days to come.
Tell me about your family and your language?
I moved to the U.S. from Argentina when I was 17 years old with my parents and my brother. We moved to California. I went to college in California and because English is my second language and my primary language being Spanish, I ended up doing a lot of outreach work in Spanish for different organization and city government. A year ago, my partner and I moved here for work. I worked as a teacher aid and then this opportunity came up. I applied and got hired as a cultural specialist.
Why did you decide to be a cultural specialist?
I always have been drawn to the people that speak the same language. Spanish is spoken in many countries, and there is a commonality that brings us together. Language is that one thing. In general, Hispanic or Latino families are very closely knit and more together. That part of the Latino culture you always want to be close to your family, which can be in contrast to the American society which is a little bit more individualistic. Of course family is important but it’s more individualistic. I’m attracted to my community, it is where I feel most comfortable. I found myself doing a lot of interpretation. I enjoy helping people who need that support. I enjoy working with my community and supporting my community. In general, I like to help people. It makes me happy to do that.