« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Anna G. Larson, Published March 31 2013

Nonprofit helps New Americans make community their own

FARGO - Ruben Jonathan is a United States citizen, and more importantly to him, he’s a Fargo resident.

Jonathan moved to the U.S. eight years ago from South Sudan. He’s lived in Fargo since 2006, and for the last two years, he’s been working with the Tu’Deako Group to help other New Americans settle into their new home city.

“Tu’Deako can be the link between Fargo and the immigrants,” he says.

Tu’Deako Group is a nonprofit founded in 2010 to serve ethnic communities in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Jonathan has benefitted from the program’s food pantry and also helps executive director Gadi Edward distribute food.

“We formed this organization for New American people because we’re facing a lot of challenges,” Edward says. “We’re focusing on education – to educate our kids and to support our kids and then families, too.”

Edward’s Episcopalian faith inspired him to start the group, but he stresses that Tu’Deako Group is open to New Americans of all faiths and those without faith.

“We want everyone to come and be as one,” he says. “In our Episcopalian faith, you have to help. I give my time because I want to help.”

The group’s name comes from the African term for “a person who helps other people,” Edward says.

Tu’Deako Group, pronounced “too-dock-oh,” provides after-school tutoring for children, computer classes and a food pantry. Edward plans to start classes and programs specifically for families, women and youth.

“Our goal is to continue to build the kids until they get skills. It could help them to get better jobs and help them to do other things like start businesses,” Edward says. “That is Tu’Deako’s core.”

As part of the group’s education efforts, they brought in Michelle Strang, a North Dakota State University extension agent for the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program, to teach the group about nutrition, grocery shopping, purchasing budget-friendly foods and food safety.

A challenge some New Americans encounter once they move to the U.S. is grocery shopping, Strang says. They’re often confused because they’re not used to buying food in boxes and cans.

“They’re used to going to out to their backyards and having fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, things that don’t come in a can or a box,” she says. “They’re very distrustful of processed foods, which is a good thing, but it’s difficult because those are usually the foods that are less expensive.”

Food safety was also a focus during the five-week program since many of the New Americans aren’t used to using refrigeration and freezers, Strang says.

For instance, some people might put eggs in the cupboard without knowing that they need to be in a refrigerator to stay safe and fresh.

Education on topics like nutrition can help people become more incorporated into American culture, Strang says.

“Sometimes, when you have a large group of New Americans, they tend to not want to assimilate to the culture because they are surrounded with their own culture,” she says. “It’s really, really important that they keep their own culture, but sometimes it can be difficult for them to be here if they’re not familiar with the wider culture they’re living in.”

The people who completed the nutrition education program are now ambassadors to other New Americans, passing on the education.

Edward emphasizes sharing knowledge and working as a team when he speaks about Tu’Deako Group and its goals.

“We want to work together as a team to solve problems, to give awareness to our people, to our families,” Edward says. “Our vision is that if we face the challenges together, we can join hands with everybody. From there, our young populations can live better, and those that have vision to go back to their home countries can help there, too.”

Since Edward began tracking participation, 100 New Americans have been helped by the program. He hopes to plan a fundraising event for this summer since the group relies on donations.

Tu’Deako Group’s office, located at 15 21st St. S., is open 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s open noon to 6 p.m. on weekends, and the food pantry is open 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

To learn more about Tu’Deako Group, donate or volunteer, call (701) 235-0022 or email gadiedward@yahoo.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525.