Published 12-4-21 (click here for newspaper item or read below)
Clayton Naff, Executive Director of Lincoln Literacy, shares with Lincoln 14 Rotary members how his organization is working to help Afghan refugees settle and adapt to their new life through Lincoln Literacy's Bridgeway to Better Life program.
Imagine that you’re a highly educated civil engineer with a wealth of experience building streets, highways and buildings. Then, imagine that practically overnight, you’re evacuated from your home and placed in a new city in a different country more than 6,000 miles away. Add to that the fact that you don’t speak the language and your evacuation happened so suddenly that you barely had time to pack anything.

That’s what Mohibullah Hamit is dealing with, as one of the first Afghan refugees to be resettled in Lincoln. Members and friends of Lincoln’s Rotary Club 14 are helping in a variety of ways. As Clayton Naff of Lincoln Literacy shared how his organization is working to help Hamit and so many others settle and adapt to their new life, club members learned that they could help by volunteering to teach English, help train and help re-employ the newest batch of refugees coming to our city. Naff addressed the club’s Nov. 30 meeting, outlining Lincoln Literacy’s Bridgeway to Better Life. This initiative helps adults new to Lincoln master the basics of English, then seek to gain skills and certifications that will allow them to get living-wage jobs, rebuild careers and achieve their dreams.
Hamit is participating in the Lincoln Literacy initiative as he is assisted in getting settled in Lincoln by Catholic Social Services. That agency, along with Lutheran Family Services, is undertaking the challenges of assisting an estimated 300 Afghan refugees to Lincoln. Joel Stoltenow, a member of Rotary 14 and assistant vice president of development for Lutheran Family Services, shared how his agency is helping the recent arrivals through a lengthy process of getting acclimated to the community. They help people get jobs, find living arrangements and get children connected with our schools.
“Recently, we announced that we expected around 800 Afghans to be resettled in Nebraska,” Stoltenow noted. “A few days later, we had 800 beds donated. Nebraskans are so overwhelmingly willing to help. Now our need is for trucks and places to store donations. That’s just one example of how wonderful Nebraskans are.”
In addition to the two resettlement agencies and the Lincoln Literacy efforts, Rotary 14 Club members learned just how involved Lincoln Public Schools have been. Dr. Linda Hix, director of LPS Federal Programs, noted that LPS serves 2,500 students from more than 150 countries.
“When they come to us with little or no understanding of English,” she noted, “our people work with them not only to teach them, but to help the children and their families become acclimated to our schools.”
One thing that Rotary 14 has done for a number of years is to help immigrant and refugee families understand the meaning behind our U.S. Thanksgiving celebration by hosting a dinner and/or providing the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal for families at Everett Elementary School. This year, the club provided several hundred pounds of food for immigrant and refugee families at Everett.

It won’t be long, thanks to the help of Lincoln Literacy, Lincoln Public Schools, Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Social Services and countless volunteers, that Hamit will be using his civil engineer skills at a job here in Nebraska, helping meet the critical need for people to fill thousands of open jobs and helping his family begin to enjoy the Good Life of Nebraska as well.