Refugee resettlement and the journey toward it is an experience largely misunderstood in the US. With this podcast we seek to improve our listeners' cultural competence through the personal stories from refugees and the innovative organizations and programs serving them.
In this episode we visit with Isaac Points who was intrinsic to the long running Five Points Juneteenth Celebration in Denver. One of the largest in the country, this celebration was previously centered in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. The area is rich in African American cultural history but was also a community historically victimized by Redlining practices. Isaac shares his experience growing up in the community, helping to establish the celebration, and his reflections on Abolitionist movements framed as a refugee migration within our own country.
This episode also describes our coming series of episodes on Abolitionist movements and the Underground Railroad- seen through the lens of historic refugee and resettlement efforts. We will also look at little known Union Refugee Camps, where escaped slaves seeking refuge were labeled “contraband,” as referenced in Zora Neale Hurston’s recently published Barracoon. For now, we begin in 1865 as seen through celebrations in the 21stcentury.
In late December 2020 we interviewed Marieke Slovin Lewis and Sarah Reader Harris who spoke about their project lifting the stories of refugees and asylees into songs. Leveraging Sarah’s experience as a poet/author, Marieke’s musical training and foundations in participative storytelling, they met weekly with residents at Belgium’s largest refugee arrival center, Le Petit-Château. Prior to the pandemic, on Monday afternoons, a courtyard of the castle-like structure along the Canal de Bruxelles was filled with music and singing in as many as ten languages. Marieke and Sarah recount a 3+ year project as poet-songwriters in residence, a journey to nurture the voices and stories of refugees—from Story to Song.
Project Worthmore is a refugee service organization with a unique collective approach to feeding newcomers, providing educational services, community navigation, and employment on an urban farm and within a dental wellness operation. We visited with Co-Founder and Executive Director Frank Anello during the third week of a staged reopening. We tour the fields and meet some of the skilled farmers planting, harvesting and providing fresh food through a food share program.
We are excited add our seventh episode featuring Kenya/Chicago based organization RefuSHE. We look at their mission to provide a supportive community for extremely vulnerable girls and women in Africa through holistic programs to help these women learn, grow and become leaders. We recorded our interview with Executive Director Geoffrey Thige during the week of their event Fashion Challenge: Reimagined event. The 3-day fashion challenge celebrates young women who have been part of the Artisan Collective, a program fostering leadership and business skills through fabric production
This is an informational episode which looks at the impact the global pandemic is having on refugee populations. An overview of responses from organizations including the World Health Organization, the UN High Commission on Refugees, the International Rescue Committee, and OXFAM International. These organizations use their global reach to mount large scale efforts to identify cases of coronavirus & mitigate the spread among refugee populations. They are also assuring that information on the pandemic reaches vulnerable populations through a myriad of communication methods (from the high tech to town criers). Includes clips from the UN and World Health Organization’s public global press conference on May 7, 2020: Global Humanitarian Response to COVID-19.
Madonna Mission's Founder and CEO calls their small office and classroom space near Loyola Park, Chicago a "two room schoolhouse." Growing from a few clients to serving sixty refugee women and their families, Madonna Mission provides tutoring during the school year and Summer programming for school aged children. A core program in English as a Second Language helps refugee women in particular navigate life, work, health services, and other practical realities in their new homes. The organization serves a diverse population from Burma, Syria and other national origins. We interviewed the energetic Lynn Gordon about her organization's purpose, born of her experience in social work and with Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu as a model. We visited her about a month prior to the identification ot Coronavirus cases in the United States. Like many social service organizations this non-profit has, not without challenges, moved toward a model of remote tutoring during quarantine conditions in Chicago.
This is the story of how hard work, experience and loving hearts help refugee populations achieve greater mental wellness and stability as they find new homes in Chicago. Refugees carry pre and post migration stress and experience traumas both before and after their arrivals. Fortunately talented professional counselors, clinicians and clinical managers are uniquely trained to administer therapies and related services to these communities. We visit with two professionals working on the ground with these populations: Guylaine Herzig, Clinical Counselor, Refugee & Immigrant Community Services (RICS) at the Heartland Alliance; and Amy Dix, Clinical Manager at Heartland Alliance Refugee Health Program. Discussion includes conditions which are not new to any mental health community, but made more complex by challenges within the refugee experience. These include duality, PTSD, Acculturative Stress, Demoralization and the impact of "othering." However dark these concepts seem, know that this is a story made hopeful by the application of humanity, healing sciences, expressive and narrative therapies.
We continue our tour of the refugee experience in Sweet Home Chicago. We visit with museum president Carey Cranston, and listen in on museum recordings from personal interviews featuring contemporary writers Ngozi Ukazu, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Dina Nayeri. We also read from written vignettes contributed by visitors who join the experiment by sharing their immigrant or refugee stories. The stage is set as we hear from perhaps more familiar voices from America's literary history: Updike, Wright, Dickinson, Dos Passos and McCullers. Together with these new voices our cultural identity is influenced, continually develops and is transformed through American artistry. These are voices of contemporary newcomers and sons and daughters of refugees and immigrants contributing award winning fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels and other genres to American literature.
On a Friday evening rideshare in Chicago our host learns firsthand the cutural importance of refugees to our American community. By coincidence, this refugee's American story is tied to the Heartland Alliance, the subject of our episode and interview. Learn how refugees and asylees become a part of one of the most diverse communities in the country as they find their sweet home Chicago. An update on the Presidential determination of September 2019.
For our pilot episode we take our listeners to the training workshop and boutique supporting We Made This. We Made This is a refugee women's sewing training program designed to support women who have limited access to community development and integration. It provides them the opportunity to participate in a holistic community assisting them with their journey to establish new lives in America. It operates within the African Community Center in Denver, Colorado, a Refugee Resettlement Agency, serving refugees from war and persecution in their home countries. Their parent company is the Ethiopian Community Development Corporation. The ACC serves some 1700 refugees per year from all cultures.
We visit with the Program Lead, Hannah McMillan, two refugee women in various stages of development within the program, as well a professional seamster working on custom orders within the boutique's workshop extension. These are personal stories of women who have developed tangible job-skills, a practical command of English, and an understanding of business culture, all while overcoming the challenges of being newcomers to American culture and society.