I will never forget sitting around the table with some African ESOL students as one of them shared:
“I came to the [sub-zero Northeastern] United States in January in the middle of a snowstorm. I know I was fleeing a war in my country, but for those first few months I tried to get a ticket to go back because I said, ‘What good is it to leave my country in order to come here and die of the cold?'”
The other students nodded solemnly.
For people who have never experienced heavy snow, icy roads, and bone-chilling temperatures, their first winter can be a truly shocking experience (and even in milder temperatures in the US, immigrants from tropical climates can be surprised by how cold it can get!).
Here’s a few ideas to help you as you help your newly arrived immigrant friends prepare for winter.
- Help others do what you do for yourself
As you yourself prepare for winter, consider helping your newly arrived immigrant friends to do the same thing. For example, pick up extra weather stripping when you buy yours, and bring it over to your friend’s house next time you go to check if they need some and if they know how to use it. Or when you’re preparing your car to drive in snow and ice, ask your friends with cars if they’d like help preparing their own.
Here’s a handy checklist for preparing for winter weather: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/beforestorm/supplylists.html.
- Know where to get the best deals on winter gear.
Newly arrived immigrants are not always aware of just how cold it actually gets that cold! Help them stay warm by directing them to the best place to get good deals on winter essentials like coats, hats, gloves, snow scrapers, shovels, etc.
- Encourage your friends to be cautious.
Those who come from warmer climates are sometimes overly optimistic about attending scheduled functions or driving places in winter weather. When you’re planning to stay home to stay safe, call your newly arrived immigrant friends and urge them to do so as well!
- Consider a Winter-Themed ESOL Class.
If you’re involved in an ESOL class, consider devoting a lesson to winter vocabulary and a conversation on how to prepare for winter. Here’s a good list of winter words and explanations to get your wheels turning: http://www.fluentu.com/blog/english/esl-winter-vocabulary/.
What else can you add to the list—how do you help newly arrived immigrants prepare for their first winter?