Meet the Buffalo Public Schools Cultural Specialists, Part II

Last week, we introduced you two of the six cultural specialist recently hired by the Buffalo Public Schools. This week, we’d like to introduce you to two more: Abdi Yaccoub for the Somali community and Faustina Palmatier for the Burmese community.

AbdiAbdi Yaccoub: 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

In 1991, I left Somalia due to civil war in my country. I was eight years old. I spent 18 years of my life at a refugee camp in Kenya. In 2009, I arrived to Buffalo as a refugee. I have a family: my wife and our six children. My parents with my siblings live here as well.

What made you want to be a cultural specialist?

As a parent and as a Somali and English speaker, I find that it is important for me to be part of the development that the community needs. I know a lot of parents in my community who do not speak English, and their children do not speak English either. It’s a challenge for the parents to know what is going on in the schools that their child(ren) attend, and they do not have a complete understanding of the public school system here in Buffalo. At the same time I think the school district needs to have a good line of communication with the non-English speaking families that it serves. In order to do this, there has to be someone who can help the District translate and understand the needs of the multilingual families in my community in terms of communication and cultural preferences. The reason I chose to be a cultural specialist is to make sure that the families get the services they need while they are able to communicate with the school district.

How does your job bridge the gap between the schools and the community?

My job here is to help bridge the gap in terms of communication between the schools and the community. My role is to make sure that students and parents get the information they need in a language they understand. If they have questions or suggestions they want the district to know, I can help them communicate those issues. I am in between two parts; one part is children and family while the other is the district. Communication-wise, I can talk to the families about their ideas, feedback, and the services that are offered to them. I also know the culture of the Somali community, that way I will be able to advise the district of the cultural barriers that need to be addressed.

FaustinaFaustina Palmatier:

What brought you to Buffalo? 

I went from Burma, to Thailand, to Maryland and then Buffalo. I came to Buffalo to have status here. I was a teacher in Thailand, so I was able to come with a passport to visit. In Burma, there was the uprising, so I decided to stay here and apply for asylum. People told me to go to Buffalo because of the refugees here.

What made you want to be a cultural specialist?

It’s not what made me do this. There is a need in the district to have people who speak the languages of the many communities we have. Education is the most important thing for people. It is a way to upgrade yourself, get a good job, and improve you life. We have to build a relationship between the district and the community. Many people in the community don’t understand language, so they don’t know about the services available to them. We mainly do communication between the school and the communities.

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