Andy Jones and Dr. Macleans Geo-Ja Ja, Educational Leadership and Foundations
Introduction: The Lost Boys are a group of young male Sudanese who were driven from their homelands because of war. They traveled on foot to Ethiopia then were relocated to Kenya, where many lived for five to ten years in a refugee camp. Beginning about 3 years ago, hundreds of these young men were granted refugee status in the United States. The group of 150+ Lost Boys in Salt Lake City is continuing to grow, as is the need to facilitate their education, skill training and employment, and integration.
Dr. Geo-Ja Ja saw the need of these young Africans and responded with a plan to evaluate their experience in Utah, hoping to provide useful information that could open the door for improving the process by which Salt Lake City and various agencies receive refugees. My research exists as part of this effort, and is intended to provide information from the perspective of the Lost Boys. A total of thirty refugees voluntarily filled out an anonymous forty-two question survey. All were living in Salt Lake City at the time of the survey, administered in July, 2002, with the help of Scott Jenkins, a volunteer with the Salt Lake Inner City Project, who has worked extensively with the Lost Boys since their arrival.
This has been a wonderful learning experience for me, adding to my knowledge and ability to design and conduct quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences. Dr. Geo-Ja Ja was involved in the initial design of the questionnaire, and was helpful in providing references for those more knowledgeable about the current location and situation of the Lost Boys. After the data was gathered, it was processed with help from Dr. Eggert, a faculty consultant in the Statistics Department. We used the SPSS software to analyze the raw data then ran some statistical tests using CHI-Square Tabulation, the results of which were statistically inconclusive. This report is being sent to the agencies who have been directly involved in the resettlement and integration of this group of Lost Boys. My hope is that this information can be used in some way to spark changes for improvement in the system. I extend my thanks to ORCA for the opportunity to apply some of the knowledge I have gained as an undergraduate, to gain new skills in research, and extend a hand to the Lost Boys and future refugees living in Salt Lake City.
Survey Results: When asked if they would rather stay in SLC or return to Sudan, over half answered that they would rather go back. Naturally, I wondered why, and began to search for possible causes. Data analysis could not prove any direct causes, but many correlative variables were discovered, which I will discuss below.
Although 62 percent describe their adaptation to American culture as very difficult, 64 percent said they feel somewhat or very comfortable in Salt Lake City. Ninety-seven percent said they feel like they can practice their religion the way they choose to, and 93 percent said they feel like they have been accepted by the community they live in. Apparently their social status as refugees is not an issue in causing some to want to leave.
Upon further analysis, the data seemed to indicate that the Lost Boys are greatly concerned about their education. Most were enrolled in school soon after arriving, at high school level or higher, most of which are still enrolled thanks to federal financial aid. As well, most said that although they had attended school in Kenya and learned in English there, they did receive some help with English when they arrived which was rated as satisfactory.
However, when asked in which areas more help was needed, 80 percent said they needed more assistance in education. When asked to rank their needs, education was placed first, above employment and help with the cultural transition. Thirty seven percent said they feel they were not given any options concerning their education, and that they are very or somewhat dissatisfied with their educational experience here. This information leads me to the conclusion that, though most are enrolled in school, they must not be getting the help they need to feel like they are succeeding as students. It may also be connected to their hopes of becoming successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and engineers. Further investigation would be required to discover exactly what kind of help is wanted and needed.
Employment was another focus of this survey. When asked how soon after arriving they were financially self-sufficient, 40 percent said they were within 3 months, 73 percent within 6 months. This causes some concern when coupled with the facts that 47 percent started working for less than $6.00 per hour, and 76 percent didn’t even have a job until 5+ weeks after arrival. Forty-three percent say they are very or somewhat dissatisfied with their current job. Perhaps the 80 percent who said they feel their most urgent need concerns their education answered this way because of the great financial pressure they are under to support themselves. At minimum wage one would have to work many hours a day in order to be self-sufficient, which would mean that education must take a back seat.
The survey also contained some questions concerning orientation efforts before and after their arrival. Eighty percent said they received orientation about the American culture before they arrived, while less than half said they received orientation about education and up to 66 percent didn’t receive any orientation about employment before arriving. When compared against their current needs (77 percent have been here over six months), cultural help is last on their list, education first, and employment second. Perhaps this would call for a pre-departure orientation focused more on education and employment than cultural transition.
When asked about their orientation after arriving in Salt Lake City (which lasted one to four weeks, according to the majority), cultural orientation was the dominant category, followed by social, educational, and occupational orientation, in that order. As much as 45 percent feel they received no help in finding employment after arriving in Utah. We can see again that the efforts of agencies involved with the resettlement of the Lost Boys could be refocused to provide more assistance in areas of greater concern and immediate importance, such as employment and education, rather than focusing their efforts on cultural and social aspects of transition.