An electric utility here is educating Southeast Asian refugees in the proper and safe use of electricity, an energy source many of them never knew about in their homelands. The company officials believe it is the first time such an effort has been made in the United States.
The electric range, refrigerator, and even electric lights have frequently been new experiences for these refugees, especially for those from Hmong and Minh tribes who have come from rural areas, where fire is the historic way to cook and the source of heat.
Pacific Power & Light Company of Portland, with the cooperation of the Southeast Asian Refugee Federation, has produced a videotape to help Asian refugees learn how to use electricity and do it safely.
Because so many Southeast Asian refugees had little or no knowledge of electricity, some have been heating their homes by turning on ovens, by using steam from boiling water, or even by using hibachis inside their homes, according to Tahn Hai Vominh, assistant director of the federation.
The videotape script, first available about mid-September and first written in English, has subsequently been translated into five languages - Laotian, Minh , Vietnamese, Hmong, and Cambodian.
There was a problem in the development of the script. It had to help those without practical knowledge of electricity, but not be so simple as to insult those who came from areas where electricity had been available, or those who have been here long enough to acquire familiarity with electricity.
Pacific Power & Light is making these tapes available to any refugee organization anywhere. The initial request has come from a refugee youth camp in Washington State near the Ca Sheila Holden, a member of the company's community relations staff, said it was probable that requests would come from both California and Texas, which have sizable concentrations of Asian people.