In February of 2022, Square Mile Community Development partnered with two other local organizations to open The PLACE. This facility is a collaborative effort between mi2, Refugee Language Project, and We Find In Love. It is our region’s first and only multicultural community center focused on international refugees.
Our organizations saw a great need in our community to provide adequate and holistic support services to the different refugee groups in our community and took action to create a place to meet these needs. The PLACE is an acronym for the Place for Language, Art, Culture, and Economic Development.
The PLACE provides English classes, meeting space, computer and art programs, educational opportunities, and small business consultation through mi2’s PATH Program. Square Mile’s role is to help create new small businesses, provide food support, social work services, and provide cultural and language support each week.
The largest population of the current refugees that were recently resettled are from Afghanistan. Many of these individuals and families were serving the United States and coalition forces for many years as translators and interpreters in the war against terror. When the Taliban took over and these Afghans were evacuated, many left their families and lives behind at a moment’s notice. The new arrivals are individuals, families, and even children…some of whom have parents that were unable to leave Afghanistan during the evacuation. This diverse group includes professionals such as pharmacists, engineers, and educators, as well as students, wives, children, soldiers, and artists.
Expanding our scope of services was within Square Mile’s mission and vision, yet there was not an allocated budget for this project nor dedicated personnel. As we became more cognizant of the needs facing our refugee community, it became clear that it was worth it to pursue this collaboration and serve the needs of the community to the best of our ability. Since our initial launch in February, we have served hundreds of individuals and have had the privilege of helping these new neighbors acclimate and succeed in their new homes.
Currently, there are over 15 countries and over 30 different language groups that have been resettled here over the years. While some of our refugees have enculturated well some, especially newly arriving groups, struggle to learn the language and culture of Amarillo. Each week we serve around 150 adult and youth visitors at The PLACE and are meeting needs that are not being met by providing services through classes, holistic training and teaching, and creating a sense of community.
This unique center is a place for people to share a meal, a cup of coffee or tea, and a bit of life. Whether they come for a formal class, mentoring, to get help navigating how to get jobs, pay bills, or even just to sit and watch a game on TV… the PLACE is a gathering space unlike any other.
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