The East African community is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups to call the Emerald City home, with at least 100,000 residing in the city, according to the Center for East African Community Affairs. It includes the communities of Somali, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The countries are sometimes collectively known as the Horn of Africa due to their position at the Northeast corner of the continent.
In many ways, the East African community is no different than any other immigrant and refugee community that resettled in the U.S. Its people seek to acquire U.S. citizenship or work visas, secure employment, improve their quality of life, honor their cultural traditions and remember their history.
But among the many characteristics that make the community unique are its many community organizations — a testament both to the communities’ desire to support one another and the critical needs that exist.
At East African Community Services (EACS), based in South Seattle’s New Holly Neighborhood Campus, their computer lab is essential to their mission. Resources from the heavily trafficked lab provide tools and services for youth, adults and families to succeed.
In February 2013, EACS and Comcast formed a partnership to continue to help serve EACS’s community with Internet basics and computer upgrades. The upgrade allowed the use of tools such as Photoshop and video editing programs for about 200 high school students who made films about their cultural identity this past school year to share at Cleveland High School’s annual talent show.
Everything revolves around the lab, located in the center of the agency. Clients from across the New Holly neighborhood and surrounding areas come to apply for U.S. citizenship and work visas, research and secure employment, and learn how to use computers and applications, no matter what their skill level. A multimedia youth program allows them to produce films that share their perspectives on East African culture and their identities.
One of the first steps in helping refugee families adjust to living in the U.S. is helping community members and clients learn English, a class that is combined with citizenship classes at EACS.
“With our organization, a lot of the adults who tend to use our computers, a lot of them applied for citizenship,” says EACS Executive Director Faisal Jama. “They’ll apply for a green card or citizenship online.”
He remembers a young man he met at EACS a few years ago who advanced very fast in their English and citizenship classes.
“After only a month he really started to use our computers he was able to find a job,” says Jama. “I saw him a month ago and he’s still working at that [same] place.”
Dozens of clients and community members use the computer lab every month, according to Jama. He’s proud to report that 400 EACS community members have passed their citizenship tests since 2008.
To learn more about East African Community Services and their work, please visit www.eastafricancs.org.