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Native of Somalia welcomed as head of relocation agency

Nasir Arush, right, the new director of the International Institute, talks with Steve Rowe, president for the Endowment for Health in Concord, during a welcome reception for Arush held at the McLane law firm on Thursday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

New Hampshire Union Leader
Friday, September 07, 2012

MANCHESTER — A native of Somalia who is the new local leader of an agency that helps refugees relocate in New Hampshire wouldn't disagree with those who find New Englanders difficult to get to know.

But Nasir Arush, who came to the city in 2000, says once the ice is broken, relationships become close and deep.

“New Hampshire people, sometimes it's very hard to get know them, but once they get to know you, the relationship is stronger,” Arush said. “The challenge is how to connect — once you break that, people are more welcoming and are willing to do more than many other communities.”

About 100 civic and community leaders welcomed Arush to his new position as site director for the Manchester office of the International Institute at a reception Thursday night.

A good part of his responsibilities involves helping the newest waves of immigrant refugees, chiefly Bhantanese and Iraqis, to acclimate to their new country.

“Bhutanese have been coming into the Manchester area for the past couple of years, and there are thousands in the pipeline,” said Carolyn Benedict-Drew, executive director of the institute.

Arush, who started his job last spring, says the current wave of refugee immigration seems to have fewer difficulties than other groups in the past.

“Compared to some of the African refugees that had been settled in the mid-2000s, they are doing better than those groups,” Arush said.

One reason for that, he said, are the relationships built over the years in Manchester.

“Before I accepted this job, everyone was telling me this is a very difficult job,” he said. “But my connection to Manchester, and knowing these people, I think it's easier to do this job.”

Many of those welcoming Arush are involved with social service, charitable and government agencies that play a part in helping the International Institute's assimilation efforts.

“The goal of the institute in general is to rally to help refugees come into America, become providing Americans and really to become good family members and good community members,” Benedict-Drew said.

For Arush, meeting that goal means helping the newest immigrants learn what he learned about the people of Manchester in the years after his arrival.

Two years after he resettled in Manchester, he learned that his sister had been murdered in Kenya while on her way to serve as an observer in peace talks between Somali warlords..

In his grief, Arush sought to “redefine” himself and became involved in the refugee resettlement movement, first in Manchester and then in other cities.

He says is drawing on that experience in his new job.

“I think Manchester is a great city,” Arush said. “People are very welcoming and, compared to many other places this is one of the best places to live.”

Bill Smith may be reached at [email protected].

Source: New Hampshire Union Leader


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