NEW YORK — As we celebrate Arab-American Heritage Month, we take you to Brooklyn where families have a brand new place to find support.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu gives a tour of the new center in Cobble Hill.
The Arab-American Family Support Center just opened its latest location on Atlantic Avenue. It’s a central hub for Arab-Americans and it’s full of decorations for Ramadan.
The center helps low-income immigrants and refugees get some of the most basic necessities, such as diapers and food.
New classrooms are ready for adult education and literacy classes.
“So it could be English as a second language, but also in preparation for their citizenship,” said Rawaa Nancy Albilal, president of the AAFSC.
Every student who has taken the prep classes has passed their citizenship exam. Right away, AAFSC makes sure they’re registered to vote.
There’s a playroom for kids and a teaching kitchen.
“Our constituents love to share recipes from their native countries. So they come here and they share the recipes and share it with our staff as well as our community members,” Albilal said.
The staff speaks 36 languages and goes into communities to distribute food, educate residents about COVID and spread the word about all the services they offer.
“As they come to the United States, they are in isolation. They are away from their family members and that’s when they need us the most,” Albilal said.
Another focus is fighting child abuse and neglect, as well as helping domestic abuse survivors.
There’s a huge need for mental health counseling, which can be culturally sensitive to this group of people.
“Our Arab community and all the community we serve stigmatizes mental health and wants to distance themself from them,” said Mathew Francis from the AAFCS. “They don’t want to discuss these things and we want to change that.”
All services are free and the goal is to help families as they settle into America.
The group has five family support centers throughout New York City. The first opened 27 years ago.