Refugees in Tucson: Overcoming the Language Barrier

Though many Tucsonans aren’t aware, Tucson has one of the largest populations of resettled refugees in the United States. Nearly 62,000 refugees have relocated to Tucson in the last 10 years.

This map shows the the 8 countries where most of Arizona’s refugees are from.


Click here to take a closer look at the map.

Though they face many obstacles when adjusting to life in a new country, many refugees have said that one of the hardest things to deal with in their move was the language barrier. The issue, however, is more complex than simply not being able to speak English.

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Abdullahi Omar is a refugee from Somali. Though he knew English when his family moved to the United States, he still says there were colloquialisms and other aspects of the language that he didn’t understand.



Bushra is a refugee from Iraq. Though she did live in other countries such as Jordan before moving to the United States, the resettling was still a challenge. She said its important for refugees to go out into the community to learn the language. One of the reasons she thinks its easier for young people to learn English is because they have to go to school, they have to spend time immersed in the language. However, that doesn’t come without it’s problems. Here she talks about her son’s struggles in a school that didn’t offer ESL classes.


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Sareos Gedi is a refugee from Somalia. She came to the United States with her husband and two children, leaving behind three children and her mother in Africa. She came to the states with no knowledge of English. After just a few weeks, she had to go to the hospital and deal with medical problems, all while not being sure what was going on because of her limited English. But through hard work and dedication she learned the language and is now a US citizen.


However, there are many organizations willing to help refugees. Ishkashitaa Refugee Network and the Arizona Language and Transportation Services are two organization that ESL teacher Grace Green works with. These organizations not only offer ESL classes and translator services, but Ishkashitaa helps provide refugees with jobs through their fruit gleaning program and ALTS transports refugees to important appointments.

At the University of Arizona, Professor Cindi Gilliland created the Arizona Resource Connection. This club gives students the opportunity to put their business skills to use while helping refugees find jobs and raising money to fund projects both in Tucson and outside the country.

Life with a prosthetic arm

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A Future Reset is a New York Times video about Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos who lost his arm while in Afghanistan.

I thought the opening segment of the video was great. It captured my attention immediately and made me want to watch the rest of the video to learn about Gallegos’s experience.

For me it also illustrated why my professor advises to begin up a video up an interview with b-roll. In this instance though the b-roll didn’t really match up with what was being said, it was dramatic and flowed well with the piece.

The one thing I didn’t like about this was the three or four still photographs that were inserted throughout the video. I felt like while they were very compositionally well put together, the pictures just seemed like too much of an abrupt break from the movement of the other video clips.

I also liked that Todd Heisler, the photographer and videographer ventured outside of Gallegos’s house and accompanied him as he went kayaking. I thought the added variety of the subject matter added more depth to the piece.

The accompanying article written by James Dao also has a beginning that I enjoyed, a dramatic opening describing how Gallegos realized he was missing an arm.

Ambitious web design for feature articles

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The internet has forever changed how journalists publish quick and to-the-point updates. In such a fast-paced society where time is limited and news organizations are battling to get the story first, Twitter has become an essential journalism tool.

But changes in long form blogging are happening as well.

An article written by Kevin Nguyen from the Nieman Journalism Lab published earlier this month brought to my attention an interesting new approach to web design.

Sites like The Verge and Pitchfork are creating beautiful layouts to showcase their stories in an aesthetically pleasing and uniquely ambitious way.

Pictures and illustrations appear and move across the screen as you scroll down the page. It feels similar to looking at a magazine article but more interactive. It doesn’t feel as if you’re reading an article. As Nguyen describes, it does feel like you’re experiencing it.

The Verge’s homepage itself is eye catching with colors utilized in a way that I have yet to see on any major news site.

One particular piece I enjoyed from The Verge was their cover story feature ‘Glitter on the Dark” about Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan. The photos change as you scroll and simulate movement. I feel like this creative technique presents Khan more effectively than a simple still image can.

Another interesting pieces to check out include: The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis by ESPN about a baseball player who pitched an incredible game while on LSD.

Though the sites are new, it feels like they’re at the forefront of a substantial change in the way journalists present their longer pieces of work online. Journalism has already evolved into more than simply black words on a white page. Now it’s time to evolve into more than simply black words on a white screen.

Journalism on Tumblr

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I’ve reached that point in the semester where time and motivation are winding down but deadlines and assignments are becoming even more relentless. There are only a few more weeks separating me from the blissful unscheduled days of winter break yet these last few weeks may prove to be my downfall. I’ve been hitting constant roadblocks of unreturned calls and last minute interview cancelations for the last two big journalism assignments I have and I’m starting to lose hope in pulling everything off on time.

I’ve been trying to avoid the distractions of social media sites but as a journalism student it’s nearly impossible. I’m literally required to tweet for class. So while twitter has become a new form of procrastination for me, tumblr still remains my go to website for wasting time.

But amid hipster photographs of flowers and cute gifs of cats are news posts.

Though tumblr may not be as convenient as twitter is for fast minute to minute news updates it has it’s own advantages.

Tumblr is designed to display pictures so it has more capabilities in that sense and can allow for longer photo explanations and captions.

However, it’s very easy to manipulate posts on tumblr. Reblogging a post gives a lot of freedom for editing content and reposting can make it difficult to trace the source of information.

One of the best news tumblrs I follow are the Reuters blogs. Reuters has three different tumblrs; one on general news, one focused on politics, and one for pictures.

The blogs are fairly new; photography and politics began in October and April, respectively. This perhaps is the biggest challenge of news organizations on tumblr. Many are new and breaking into the tumblr community to gather a following may be difficult when the majority of people are on the website with the expectation to look at pictures of their favorite actors or find funny memes.

However, I think that if news organizations embrace tumblr the way they’ve embraced twitter, it could once again change the way we practice journalism especially in the areas of multimedia and photography.

Franz Strasser and St. Louis’s dividing line

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While working on my audit project for Ethics class tonight, I stumbled upon an interesting journalist. Franz Strasser is a reporter and videojournalist with BBC News. His work has been nominated for Emmys.

Based out of Washington, D.C. he spends a lot of his time traveling across the United States and reporting on stories he encounters.

The one that I liked in particular is called ‘Crossing a St. Louis line that divides communities.’

The element that stood out for me in this video was his use of graphics and text to help tell the story of how this street symbolizes a distinct racial and economic separation for that community.

I thought the graphics displaying the differences in median home value and median household income across Delmar were very effective in illustrating the economic differences between the neighborhoods with straight facts. I also liked the moment where Strasser took some straight on footage of Delmar, drew a line down the screen and showed the statistics for how many people on either side of the street had bachelors degrees.

There were some instances, however, where for a few seconds the side by side videos weren’t cohesive together and the transitions were a little awkward. It did work in some parts with images matching up to illustrate what a person was talking about but I think it might’ve flowed more smoothly if he’d simply cut to the B roll footage while the audio of the interview played in the background.