What’s this all about?This blog is intended to provide resources and information as well as up-to-date information about what is happening at CRIS. We hope to help readers better understand the refugee community here in Columbus. Enjoy!
On Friday, October 18, 2013 an Iraqi refugee family resettled by CRIS experienced an unimaginable tragedy. Eid Shahad, his wife Entisar and their four daughters were killed instantly in a terrible car accident in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Surviving are five sons ages 17, 10, 9, 8 and 5, and the boys’ elderly grandmother. CRIS is working with the greater Iraqi community and social service agencies to find an appropriate guardian so that the five boys can be kept together. We are asking for help for rent, food and necessities so that the guardian can afford to care for the family. For the next 14 days, beginning on October 20th, 100% of your tax deductible donations to CRIS will go to support these children. The funds will be administered by an independent financial advisor. You can donate online at www.crisohio.org or mail a check to:
1925 E. Dublin Granville Rd., 102
Columbus, OH 43229
Note: Shahad Family
CRIS worked with this refugee family when they first arrived in the United States in 2011. They had done so well that they were going to be sponsoring a new Iraqi refugee family arriving in November. It would be heaping tragedy upon tragedy if these five boys are separated. We will be working hard to keep this family together. Please help.
The blunt and bold ways of Americans are often perplexing for people who came to this country from other cultures.
For instance, many immigrants and refugees need to know it’s important, not insulting, to make eye contact during a job interview.
Community Refugee and Immigration Services, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make settling in a new land a less jarring experience for clients, offered a variety of classes on workforce readiness at its Sinclair Road office.
These became very popular, according to CRIS Executive Director Angela K. Plummer.
Almost too popular.
“Students were just crammed together like sardines,” Plummer said. “It got to be just too much. I started worry about safety. It was just over capacity for what made any sense.
“Our classrooms were bursting at the seams. Our landlord finally balked.”
The property manager demanded that CRIS either lease five more suites in the same office building or find other accommodations.
The result, Plummer said, is that the organization was spurred to do something it had long considered, which was to bring all operations into a single location. CRIS also had employees working at an office on the East Side and another on the Hilltop.
Plummer said officials thought a single site would be a “better approach for serving clients.”
Last week, a staff meeting for all employees was held at the new office, 1925 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Suite 102. Plummer said not only was it great to see everyone together in one place, but also nice for her to see some practically unfamiliar faces.
“There were folks who worked out of our west site office I didn’t see very often,” she said. “We’ve always had all-staff meetings on a quarterly basis, but it was great to have people in our west office … to understand if they’re dealing with an employment issue handled by people who worked in another office, ‘Gosh, they’re just down the hall.’ “
Having everyone in one location will save money and improve efficiency, Plummer predicted.
An added bonus is that the new office includes space that is meant to serve as a classroom.
“Our classroom space, it’s just fantastic,” Plummer said. “It’s an actual classroom and we just got some chairs with little desks, kind of like in a college classroom. It’s really much more conducive to learning.
“I feel really good about it.”
Locating all of the organization’s operations in Northland also made sense.
“Most of the people who are coming to these classes live in the Northland area,” Plummer said.
According to its website, CRIS began as an outreach service of the Buddhamamaka Society Inc., a mutual assistance association founded in 1987 by refugees from Laos.
In 1995, CRIS was established “in response to the unexpected closings of two local refugee resettlement offices in order to meet the evolving needs of central Ohio’s increasingly diverse community.”
Its first space was in a garage located next to the Lao Temple on Columbus’ East Side. Initial funding came from a grant from the Columbus Foundation and a contract with the Franklin County Department of Human Services.
In 1999, CRIS opened its Hilltop office; that same year, it became an independent 501(c)(3) organization.
In 2001, CRIS became the Church World Service Ohio affiliate “to provide refugee resettlement services, reception and placement of refugees admitted to the United States from overseas” and opened a North Side office close to the growing refugee population in the area, according to the website.
The CRIS mission is to “help refugees and immigrants reach and sustain self-sufficiency and achieve successful integration into the central Ohio community.”
By KEVIN PARKS
Photo Credit: Chris Parker / ThisWeek News
Original posting in ThisWeek Community News
Fall has arrived bringing a crisp chill in the air – and a need for a jacket! CRIS is beginning our annual winter coat drive and we need you. You can donate your clean, new or gently used jackets, coats, hats, scarves and gloves to our office at 1925 E Dublin Granville Rd. Monday-Thursday 8:30-4:30 or Friday 8:30-2:30. Want to organize a drive at your school, office or faith community? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Within the confines of the Performance Hall at the Ohio State University, a crowd welcomed the president of the Federal State of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The speech on Monday, September 23 advocated for peace, education and security in Somalia. President Mohamud’s visit to Columbus came in part because the city is home to the second-largest Somali population in the US. The president was quick to express his immense gratitude to the city which so many Somalis call home. He also noted that OSU is only one of two universities in the world to have integrated a Somali language program into its curriculum. After these greetings, Mr. Mohamud then focused on enumerating his plan for Somalia and answered questions regarding state security.
Mr. Mohamud was quick to recognize the need for a stable and effective Somali government. He noted issues of national unity and the rise of violent extremist groups including Al-Shabab. The president stressed the need for a strong security system in his country and spoke of efforts to institute a zero tolerance policy in regards to violence. He contended that the appointment of new military commanders would create a firm military leadership. President Mohamud, long an education advocate, also argued for improved education systems as a driving tool against radical groups within Somalia. Civic engagement programs, he said, would further promote stabilization as his administration’s “2016 Vision” aims to get every Somali citizen participating in the nation’s 2016 elections.
President Mohamud spoke passionately projecting an air of hopefulness. Before becoming president, Mr. Mohamud was heavily engaged in the education sector, holding such notable positions as an education officer for UNICEF and head of department of the Technical Teacher’s Training College. He founded the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development (SIMAD) which has now become a university. TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of 2013.
Written by CRIS intern Wendy Bongjoh
When you give, give big! Donate to CRIS during the Columbus Foundation’s Big Give and amplify your contribution thanks to a $1 MILLION bonus pool. On Tuesday, September 17th, the Columbus Foundation will enhance the donation you make while even paying the credit card fees so CRIS receives 100% of your donation. To learn more and to donate, go to http://www.columbusfoundation.org.
Six-year-olds Bol and Jok were tending livestock just outside their village in Piol, South Sudan when they heard gunshots. The two hid from the threatening sound, and instinctively fled, not knowing if their
family or fellow villagers were safe. They found other orphaned boys, and together they faced a long, dangerous journey to a refugee camp in Ethiopia as “The Lost Boys.” The Lost Boys encountered continuous hostile violence from Sudan’s government troops, and were also challenged by wild animals. “When we saw a lion, we all climbed in a tree and made noise until it went away.” The boys ate whatever they could find in nearby vegetation while the hope of safety kept them going.
For four years, Bol and Jok stayed at the camp in Ethiopia. The whereabouts of their family was still unknown and when Ethiopia began its own civil war, the two moved on to another camp in Kenya. They stayed there for ten years, but life was no less difficult. They received food rations for fifteen days, “but really it was only enough to last us ten days,” says Bol. “Those last few days we had no food. No one was cooking over a fire and people were sad and hungry. We called them black days.”
Bol and Jok, among 20,000 boys displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War, traveled a total of 1,500 miles by foot on their journey to seek refuge. For Bol and Jok, hearing the United States would help them resettle was the news they had been hoping for after 14 years of struggle.
Arriving in Nashville, Tennessee, Bol was astounded by the bustling, modern city around him. “It was crazy. We had never seen anything like it before…I remember when someone explained to me that ice cream was food. That blew my mind.”
Bol and Jok attended junior college in Nashville and each worked two jobs. Bol began pursuing artwork- something he did to pass the time in Kenya with whatever materials he could find. He began drawing and painting scenes of his journey to show others, and it became a sort of therapy for him to process his past. The two moved to Columbus after a few years in Nashville to begin their higher education at Ohio State University; Jok studying International Relations and Bol, Digital Art.
In Columbus, Bol and Jok met Steve Walker, the Director of Refugee Services at the time. It was after a visit back to their village in Piol in 2007 that Bol and Jok reached out to Steve to help them with their vision. Their village’s conditions were bleak, and many children were at risk of deadly diseases. Bol and Jok wanted to build a clinic, and Steve began assisting with fundraising efforts right away. In 2009, the clinic was built. The village chiefs so loved the concepts of luck and good fortune surrounding the Ohio State Buckeye that the facility was given its name, The Buckeye Clinic.
The Buckeye Clinic is already vaccinating the village children but hopes to further their services by hiring medical staff to care for pregnant women and expand health education and promotion. Bol and Jok’s journey of perseverance and inspiring faith in a better future is a reminder to us all that from struggle, arises strength and the drive to make a difference.
To help The Buckeye Clinic, visit their website at http://southsudanclinic.org.
You can see some of Bol’s artwork at www.bolaweng.com.
Written by Resettlement Intern Kelsey Ullom