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Newcomers Welcome: Integration

Aurora is one of the most diverse cities in Colorado. In fact, about one in five residents is foreign born. Over half came from the Americas, mainly Mexico. After that the largest groups hail from Ethiopia, Vietnam, Korea, El Salvador and India. To help immigrants and refugees succeed, the city created an integration plan. It was among the first in the country to do so.

“Our city leaders at the time, intentionally they (made) a very important decision,” said Ricardo Gambetta, manager of Aurora’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs. “They realize that in the last 20 years, we have a new face of the city.”

To implement the integration plan, Aurora partners with dozens of organizations including Village Exchange Center. The non-profit supports immigrant and refugee communities with a range of services including the Natural Helpers Program which is staffed by volunteers who are immigrants themselves.

“The natural helpers are like this bridge between their country and here,” said José Gómez , who manages the Natural Helpers Program. “ I feel that one of the biggest things that has kept our immigrant or refugee community, you can say down, is the lack of knowledge.”

The Colorado Dream: Newcomers Welcome episode two examines the city’s immigrant integration plan. Meanwhile, more than 15 years earlier, Salwa Mourtada Bamba gets a job and enrolls at the local community college as she settles into her new life in Aurora.

Links and credits

Salwa on social media:

Aurora History Museum

City of Aurora

Village Exchange Center

The Colorado Dream: Newcomers Welcome is a production from KUNC. It was written and reported by Stephanie Daniel. Editing by Johanna Zorn. Fact-checking by Cat Jaffee with additional help from Adam Rayes. This season's theme song was composed by Jason Paton, who also sound designed and mixed the episode. Additional music was composed by Matthew Simonson. Ashley Jefcoat is the digital editor. Special thanks to Chandra Whitfield, Robert Leja, Kyle Cunningham and Kim Rais. Sean Corcoran is KUNC’s news director. Tammy Terwelp is KUNC’s president and CEO.

The “American Dream” was coined in 1931 and since then the phrase has inspired people to work hard and dream big. But is it achievable today? Graduating from college is challenging, jobs are changing, and health care and basic rights can be a luxury. I report on the barriers people face and overcome to succeed and create a better life for themselves and their families.