September is Kinship Appreciation and Awareness Month in South Dakota

September 22, 2016

September has been named as Kinship Appreciation and Awareness Month in South Dakota.  What a wonderful opportunity to recognize the many families who have opened their homes to care for kin in times of need. Kinship care is a living situation in which a relative takes primary responsibility for the care of a family member, most often a child. Kinship care enables family members to live with people they know and trust, provides a sense of hope and reinforces the family member’s sense of personal and cultural identity.  Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Student: “Grandfather Karna” Part 1

September 20, 2016
English Instructor, Laura Smith-Hill, and her student, Karna Mongar

English Instructor, Laura Smith-Hill, and her student, Karna Mongar

We would like to introduce you to one of our students here at the LSS Center for New Americans- Karna Mongar, also known as “Grandfather Karna.” Karna makes an impression on everyone who has the opportunity to meet him.

Karna came to America from Nepal in August of 2012 . He is originally from Bhutan.

Now, he takes the bus to our center for English Classes daily, Monday through Thursday from 10 to noon. Karna, the most senior student in class, is always able to quickly complete the task at hand whether it is speaking, reading or writing in English. Sometimes, when he’s in an especially chipper mood he will quietly sing a traditional song in his native tongue – Nepali. Everyday after class, he chats with his teachers, says “Boli aunsu” (“I will come tomorrow,” in Nepali) and gives them a heaping handful of Halls cough drops. Now I have two bags and a bowl overflowing with cough drops in my office, but Karna won’t take “no” for an answer. He maintains this daily ritual as faithfully as he comes to class.

Karna is relentless in his desire to communicate with everyone he sees. He will use all the English he knows and when he runs out of English vocabulary he will continue in Nepali, whether the listener can understand him or not. When we don’t understand him, his smile, teasing expression and the laughter from his classmates bear evidence that Karna has a great sense of humor.

I teach Karna in a beginning literacy class. One day, I came into the classroom to find him standing at the whiteboard addressing his classmates. He told me, “Today Karna Teacher. Nepali Teacher! (unintelligible Nepali words followed by) Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Dzongkha, China!”

I didn’t need to know Nepali to understand he was showing off the list of languages he can speak.

Of course, I smiled – “OK. No problem. Today, Teacher Karna. No Teacher Laura. Teacher Laura is a student today!” As I moved to sit in his regular seat at the table, Karna turned the classroom back over to me.

Karna has piqued my curiosity with his brief English-Nepali stories. It is surprising how much you can understand from someone using 50% English and 50% of their native language supplemented with gestures and facial expressions.

After class, Karna shared a little anecdote with me. He repeated his list of languages, marched like a soldier and mimed a rifle in his arms while speaking Nepali. So I understood that in addition to some English, Karna speaks five other languages and this has something to do with him being a soldier of some kind back in Bhutan.

I wanted to learn more so I asked my co-worker, Deo Rai, to be our translator for a little interview. Stay tuned for next week’s blog from the Center for New Americans program for the results of our interview with “Grandfather Karna!”


written by Laura Smith-Hill, English Instructor

Better Perspective, Better Together – Guest Post

September 19, 2016

Lori Blom, a volunteer in the LSS Better Together Program sent us a great piece on perspective. We knew we needed to share it with everyone. As we were working with the Sioux Empire United Way to develop the program, stories like this are what we envisioned.  We hope you enjoy reading it, and if you want something like this for your family and kids, apply today! There are seniors waiting for someone to share their time and life with.

Yesterday, I learned a valuable lesson from our friend M, who is 100 years young.

When the kids and I come to visit her, we often stay in her apartment playing cards and chatting. But on this occasion, we also went to the corner cafe in her building where I bought a couple of treats. M learned of our upcoming road trip and told me to keep the containers and fill them with snacks to bring for the kids.

I probably would have just thrown away those containers if not for her comments. See, M was born in 1916. She grew up using everything….and then reusing it. We tend to think of our culture as green and recycling, but we have nothing on those previous generations.

To honor her, I took those containers and brought them home. Washed them out and filled them with fresh fruit and veggies that our kids did eat during the first leg of our journey.

Recently, Pastor Clyde Teel (Community Reformed Church) shared that we aren’t on this earth just for ourselves. If we are still here, we are here for somebody else. I know M wonders why she is still here at 100 years when she is ready to see Jesus. I have to think that it is partly for our family. It’s appropriate that the name of the program that matched us together is called “Better Together”. I am a better person because of her and the time we spend together…and hopefully it is making an impact on our kids too.

Thanks, Lori for sharing this insight with us and thank you for sharing your family with M. We know she enjoys the time too.

4 Tips for When Life Isn’t Vanilla

September 15, 2016


Mmmm.  Vanilla ice cream.  Vanilla is the greatest flavoricecream-sunday-and-woman of ice cream ever.  I know, it’s plain, not overly stimulating in the flavor department, and easy to find.  But with that one flavor I can meet just about any mood I’m in.  Without clashing, I can add chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, fresh strawberries, peanuts, even crème de menthe.  Try that versatility with just about any other flavor and eventually you will have a bad, bad dessert that is anything but a treat.  Vanilla is definitely the way to go.

If only life were like ice cream.  It would be so easy, so predictable.  We would know exactly what is coming.  We would always know we were safe.  It would be perfect.

But life isn’t vanilla.  And that’s a GOOD thing. Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Advice

September 12, 2016

When we see someone struggling, our natural response is to try to help them. There is no moment more true to that than when we see someone we know or love facing an unplanned pregnancy. Whether it is your friend, sister, daughter, coworker, granddaughter or girlfriend, the first response is to offer them advice. The problem is, often they are inundated with several “helpers” who want to offer their advice, all with differing opinions. It’s very difficult to be struggling with a decision and have people all around you giving conflicting advice but not really providing any resources to follow through with that advice. “You’d be a great mom, I’ll help you!” while someone else says, “but what about college, you’ll never be able to go,” to “whatever you do, don’t just ‘give it up.’” The best advice you can truly give them is to refer them to an LSS Pregnancy Counselor, because everyone around them might have an opinion on what they should do, but a Pregnancy Counselor helps THEM decide what THEY should do.   Read the rest of this entry »

But What About My Chocolate?

September 9, 2016

That was a very serious question for me when I arrived from my native Germany to go to school in South Dakota so many years ago.  The closest World Market was in Denver, Colorado, and international food, especially groceries, hadn’t found its way yet to the middle of the American continent. Many, many care packages made their way across the ocean and my fellow international students and I would anxiously await the smells and tastes of home. I never knew which delicacies my mother would include in her package but I could be sure of one thing – there was always chocolate. Ritter Sport, to be exact, the queen of chocolate. Life couldn’t get any better than having a heavenly square of German chocolate melt in my mouth.

Rittersport chocolate, the queen of chocolate.

Rittersport chocolate, the queen of chocolate.


Roti bread is a staple in Nepalese cooking.

Roti bread is a staple in Nepalese cooking.

Fast forward a few years to 2016. Ritter Sport is still my absolute favorite chocolate but it now is only a short drive away. Sioux Falls has become home to thousands of immigrants and refugees who brought with them their cultures, their traditions and, of course, their food. World Market has come to Sioux Falls, along with a store that I grew up with, the ALDI grocery store. The city has adjusted well to the ever growing, multicultural taste buds. Almost every grocery store in Sioux Falls today carries a wide variety of foods and other items from all around the world.

You can also find many culture specific stores. What once was a place to buy musical instruments now houses a Somali store. Tucked neatly in the middle of a residential neighborhood is another African store. A small building right next to a huge parking lot is home to an Asian store. Several multicultural businesses can be found at one particular intersection. When a new store opens, it doesn’t stay new for long. Through word of mouth the clientele arrives at yet another place where they can find a home away from home.  And every single one of these stores carries chocolate!

An image of Injera, an East African sourdough-risen flatbread.

An image of Injera, an East African sourdough-risen flatbread.


A variety of Sushi rolls, a Japanese delicacy.

A variety of Sushi rolls, a Japanese delicacy.

Below are just a few examples of the large variety of ethnic stores in Sioux Falls, just to get you started. Be on the lookout when you drive around the city and you will make your own list.


10th and Blauvelt

Asian Food Market

10th and Blauvelt, 2 doors down from Mogadishu

Dar Es Salaam

Minnesota Ave and Brookings Street

Cultural Grocery Store

At the intersection of West, 6th and Burnside, next to laundromat

Alberi Store

West and Burnside

Than Mai Market

Rice Street, close to John Morrell

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

Meet the Match: Carol Twedt and Azriel

September 7, 2016

Carol Twedt has spent many years serving people in Sioux Falls. One thing she has always wanted to do is mentor a student. She felt that she did not have time, but after hearing about the great experiences others were having she decided she could not wait any longer!

At the start of the 2014-15 school year, Carol was matched with a first grade boy, Azriel, at Longfellow Elementary. “I could not have gotten a better kid,” said Carol. He now attends Susan B. Anthony and they both enjoy meeting at the new, beautiful school building.

The two have become good friends, but it was not always easy. They had a little trouble connecting a few times throughout their first year but they have hit their stride and had a great second year.

Azriel runs up to Carol to greet her and is excited to talk about what they were going to do together. “I like playing Sorry and Connect 4 with Carol,” said Azriel. “I always win.” Along with playing board games they have built with Lego’s and enjoyed lunch and conversation together.

Both Carol and Azriel think there needs to be more mentors! “Almost every week a student asks me if I can be their mentor too. We need more mentors in our schools,” said Carol. Azriel says that he talks about Carol to his friends and cousins and tells them they need a mentor too. “She is really nice,” he said.

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