Archway Supportive Services Team Member Ladia Htoo Works to Increase Immigrant Awareness
Every resident of Archway Communities, based in Lakewood, Colo., arrives with a unique background and set of lived experiences. With more than 10 known languages across our communities, and residents who come from more than 20 countries, our supportive services team plays a crucial role in welcoming new residents and providing relevant resources and programming. At Archway’s Arapahoe Green in Denver, Ladia Htoo, one of the supportive services coordinators based at that community, has spent the past year increasing awareness of the barriers that immigrant and refugee families face on a daily basis within Archway and in the surrounding areas.
For Ladia, the struggles of adapting to life in the United States are not unfamiliar. Ladia was born and raised in a Thai refugee camp, but her native language is Karen. Upon arriving in New York over a decade ago, Ladia was immediately struck by numerous language barriers as her family’s case was processed. Up until that day, Ladia had been her complete name, as it had three syllables, but she was assigned a last name, her father’s, for administrative purposes.
For many immigrants arriving in the United States, their identity is left to the discretion of their case manager. Without a birth certificate, most immigrants are assigned dates of birth, the most common being January 1. Like Ladia, names will also be assigned during this process. If an immigrant does not know their given name, or it does not translate into English, they will often be given the name FNU: First Name Unknown.
To help other supportive services coordinators better understand the experiences and potential traumas of immigrant and refugee families arriving at Archway, Ladia recently co-developed an immigrant awareness presentation. This presentation reflects on how Archway currently serves immigrants, identifies possible immigrant needs and traumas, and outlines how we can better serve immigrants across our communities.
At Arapahoe Green, Ladia provides programming that not only fits her residents’ needs, but their schedules as well. Previously, a volunteer-led ESL (English as a Second Language) and citizenship classes were offered, but Ladia has been working with residents to connect them with online resources and classes that they can complete on their own time. Additionally, Ladia is hoping to enhance her residents’ access to healthcare by developing new programming around Medicare renewals and increasing engagement with Medicaid.
“I help people in my community overcome language barriers and a lack of resources,” Ladia said. “Specifically, I help them with language translation and how to better understand their benefits.”
One of Ladia’s favorite activities to organize at Arapahoe Green is arts and crafts. Arapahoe Green consists of more than 60 single-family homes, primarily filled with families, children, and single parents. The craft activities that Ladia organizes engage entire families, but she also implements specific crafts for the mothers that live in the community.
“Many of the mothers here are so busy, and they have very little time to themselves,” Ladia said. “I like to inspire creativity through crafting.”
In the future, Ladia plans to organize a book club for residents that explores narrative texts in their respective native languages. By encouraging language literacy among her residents, Ladia hopes to strengthen individual senses of identity, as well as a larger confidence in navigating new communities as they adjust to their new lives in the United States.
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