Tyson Foods awards grant to EMBARC for Iowa refugees, immigrants

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Photo courtesy EMBARC

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), founded in Iowa in 2012, has received an $85,000 grant from Tyson Foods to help support citizenship and contextualized English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, the refugee-resettlement group recently announced.

The grant will allow EMBARC to join Tyson Foods’ legal services partner, the Immigrant Connection, in leading the year-long ESL program, tying together citizenship lessons and community-led English language practice, based on EMBARC’s community-centered model.

Students across Iowa will prepare for the naturalization exam through a multi-week virtual course, co-taught by ESL instructors and language speakers from Burma, also known as Myanmar. Some 135 distinct ethnic groups have been recognized in Burma, and more than 100 languages are spoken nationwide.

“We are proud to offer this unique citizenship class, which meets a need in ethnic Burma community groups across Iowa,” said EMBARC Executive Director Abigail Sui. “We are thankful to partners Tyson Foods and Immigrant Connection for uplifting community-centered models that address key barriers faced by our families.”

The English lessons will be supplemented by in-person tutoring, practice sessions and support provided by EMBARC Navigators speaking multiple Burma languages, Sui said. This model supports student achievement by addressing common barriers community members face when seeking classes, including childcare and transportation, she said.

EMBARC will partner with Immigrant Connection to provide students with legal assistance when applying for citizenship.

“Tyson and EMBARC hold a long-standing relationship which has enabled us to provide continuous essential support to our employees and their families,” said Garrett Dolan, senior manager for social responsibility at Tyson Foods. “The EMBARC team not only helps refugee team members in Perry, Waterloo and Columbus Junction overcome language and cultural barriers, but they are a critical support to help our employees have the services they need to maintain a healthy and safe life at home and in the community.”

Dolan said the grant to EMBARC is another example of Tyson’s commitment to supporting their immigrant team members. The company has invested more than $2.4 million during the past two years to support partners, such as EMBARC, providing immigrants with legal services, such as employment authorization renewals and petitions for citizenship.

Dolan said Tyson Foods recently received the “Keepers of the American Dream” award from the National Immigration Forum, which recognizes leaders and organizations making their community and country a better place for immigrants.

The Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC) is the collective voice of different ethnic groups from Burma. EMBARC strives to serve as a community-led friend, mentor, educator and leader for all refugees and immigrants as they make a new home here in Iowa. Learn more at EMBARCIowa.org.

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