An Outing to the Local Hindu Temple

A post by Sarah Taylor, CRIS’ summer communications intern

Hindu Temple

On a stormy summer evening in July, CRIS staff member Sarah Miller and CRIS contract worker Kileshshwari and their entourage of elderly Nepali women voyaged from Shanley Drive apartments in Columbus to Bharatiya Hindu Temple in Powell.

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For the women of the Nepali-Bhutanese community, the thirty-minute drive to Powell is long, and most of the women cannot make the trip.  Instead, they often perform puja, a daily, traditional Hindu ceremony, in the convenience of their own homes.

Sarah Miller organized the trip as a part of a community adjustment program, developed by an organization called Pathways to Wellness, that focuses on improving refugees’ health and wellness as well as helping them to adjust to culture shock.  At the beginning of the eight-week program, Sarah asked her group of Nepali-Bhutanse elderly refugees where they would most want to go. According to Sarah, senior refugees are particularly isolated and marginalized because they lack transportation and English language proficiency.  Both the men’s and women’s group said “they said they wanted to go to a Hindu temple, so we tried to make it happen.”

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On July 3rd Sarah brought a group of men to the temple and brought a group of women on July 8th.  After visiting the temple, both groups expressed their interest in continuing to go every day and to even bring their families along.  Sarah hopes to try to organize at least one more trips to go to the temple before the end of the eight-week program.

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To read about the field trip the Nepali refugees took to the Park of Roses, click here.

CRIS Intern urges others to volunteer as well

Sarah Taylor was our summer Communication Intern and is currently studying abroad in France.  We wish her the best of luck in her adventures and travels! Read below about her experience at CRIS this summer!

My name is Sarah Taylor.  I am a rising junior at Davidson College in North Carolina.  I have had the privilege of spending the last seven weeks of my summer as an intern with Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS).  CRIS serves refugees living in Columbus, Ohio with job placement programs, English as a second language (ESL) classes, and cultural orientation sessions, and by providing new arrivals with temporary housing, furniture, and transportation.

I am the organization’s Communication Intern.  I write blog posts, update the Facebook page, take videos and photos of events, and attend community gatherings.  In addition to my communications work I volunteer two times per week teaching English in our beginning ESL class.

The best thing about interning at CRIS is the novelty of each and every day here.  No two days of my internship have been identical.  Each class leaves me humbled by the focus and determination of my students, and I leave class with their calls of “thank you” of tips to finding a husband (the search for which they expect to start now) still ringing in my ears.  I may spend one day researching into the legal status of Central American unaccompanied minors, planning a World Refugee Day celebration, or polling the entire office as to their predictions as to which team would win the World Cup.  The next I may help organize the donated supplies closet, pick up food at Ginevra, a local Somali restaurant, and sit in on a staff meeting.

I have traveled throughout Columbus to meet with refugees from all over the world (Somalia, Iraq, the Congo, Ethiopia, Iran, and Bhutan to name a few).  Their journeys to reach America are full of hardship and loss, but they are happy to have made it to America, which is a land of boundless opportunity for them.

Volunteering and interning with CRIS is the best way I could have spent my summer.  The staff is welcoming and friendly and the refugee clients are appreciative of the help they receive, and, as a result, I feel that my contributions have made a positive difference in the lives of others.  I urge others to do the same!  CRIS is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers who want to get to know a new side of Columbus.  Contact Hannah Hartshorn (hhartshorn@cris-ohio.org), CRIS’ Resource Developer, to learn about the latest volunteering opportunities.

New American Festival Saturday, September 13th

Check out the new ad for next Saturday’s New American Festival! Bring your friends and family to enjoy the food, art, music and dance that Columbus’s diverse community has to offer.

A Letter to the Editor: Protect Young Refugees

Our executive director, Angie Plummer, sent a letter last week to the editor of the Dispatch that, as of today, has not yet been published. Continue reading to see the full letter, which urges Congress to uphold the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

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Image Source: Vice News

Congress Must Reject Rollbacks to Child Protection Law:

As the US government responds to the humanitarian crisis faced by children and families fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, both President Obama and some members of Congress are proposing to weaken important legal protections for these vulnerable children.

The presence of tens of thousands of refugee children at our southern border poses a legal and humanitarian dilemma. Through a rare act of bipartisan collaboration, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in 2008. This act, signed into law by President Bush is a critical American law that prevents the US from deporting children back into the hands of traffickers and others who seek to exploit them. It is inaccurate and illogical to blame this law for these children fleeing to the US. These children are fleeing escalating conflict, violence, gang activity and exploitation.

In fact, they are fleeing not only to the US, but also to Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize. These countries have seen a seven-fold increase in refugees between 2008 and 2013.

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Image Source: The Wilson Center

The humanitarian response to the crisis is obvious. We cannot allow thousands of refugee children to be returned to exploitation, trafficking, rape and even death. Our country has always been a beacon of hope and welcome to the sojourner. Many communities throughout our country are helping to lead the response to provide care and support to these kids, with thousands of people donating, volunteering and serving as foster families to welcome these children into their homes. So, although the short-term response to the crisis is obvious, we must also look to the longer term to reduce the likelihood of such crises in the future.

This humanitarian crisis will not be solved at the border. It is in our own long-term interest to work with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to create conditions such that children and families do not have to flee for their lives.

This is not a US immigration crisis, it is a refugee crisis. This is a life and death crisis for children who are fleeing rape, violence and exploitation. Any parent who would risk sending a child on the dangerous journey to the US can only be desperate to save that child from something worse. We’re a nation of more than 300 million people. We can easily muster the moral courage and resources to protect children who are fleeing violence, rape and exploitation. How our nation responds to these most vulnerable children defines who we are as a nation. We must not fail them or ourselves.

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Young Central American girls play games before bedtime at a detention center (Image Source: Center for American Progress)

Staff Highlight: Alex Alfonso

This summer Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) is partnering with the Columbus Foundation’s Summer Fellows program.  Launched in 2010 the Summer Fellows Program provides undergraduates and recent college graduates with the opportunity to intern with central Ohio non-profit organizations.

Columbus Foundation Summer Fellow Alex Alfonso

Columbus Foundation Summer Fellow Alex Alfonso

Alex Alfonso is our Columbus Foundation Summer Fellow.  He is working with us for ten weeks this summer in the refugee resettlement program helping to prepare for and welcome newly arriving refugees to Columbus.  Last summer Alex volunteered at CRIS teaching basic employability classes and helping employment counselors.  He so enjoyed assisting refugees in their initial transition that he sought out a fellowship to return full-time this summer.

Alex’s roles include picking up new arrivals from the airport, putting together home supply kits, and taking trips with clients to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio so that they can furnish their new homes.  He also teaches cultural orientation classes for newly arrived refugees to help with the process of integrating into our community.

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Celebrating Ramadan in Columbus, Ohio

The image of lanterns is traditionally associated with Ramadan.

The image of lanterns is traditionally associated with Ramadan.

Every year Muslims around the world fast, abstaining from water and food, from sunrise to sunset during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar called Ramadan.  This year Ramadan will last from June 28 to approximately July 28.  Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a day of celebration called Eid al Fitr.  Every day, once the sun has set, Muslims may drink and eat, breaking a fast that can last up to 16 hours in the height of summer here in Ohio.  They often break their daily fast with dates, the food the prophet Muhammad, Peace Be upon Him, is thought to have eaten to break his fast.

For many Muslims, Ramadan is a month of spiritual discipline in which they train their souls in self-restraint and mindfulness and refocus their attention upon God.  During Ramadan Muslims refrain not just from food and drink but also from bad thoughts, actions, and words.

Special circumstances can exempt a Muslim from fasting.  The elderly, sick, those on a journey, or women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating may break their fast and make up the lost days when they are healthy and able.

Sarah Taylor, communications intern for CRIS, sat down with two of CRIS’s Muslim staff members to ask them some questions about the month of fasting before them.

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CRIS’ Staff Bakes Kounafa (Busma)

An article by Sarah Taylor, Summer Communications Intern

For an all-staff lunch in June, everyone brought their favorite foods from around the world.  Alongside Nepali momos (potstickers), Ethiopian injera, and American fried chicken was my new favorite dessert, kounafa.

Kunafa Recipe

Source for this photo here.

Kounafa is a Middle Eastern dessert traditionally eaten during the month of Ramadan, but feel free to enjoy this sticky and sweet dessert any time of the year.  The savory dough and nuts pair particularly well with the sweetness of the syrup and the raisins.  I recommend serving it with tea at the end of a meal, preferably a meal spent with lots of family and friends.

Staff member, Georgina, was gracious enough to share with me her recipe for this delectable dessert.  Please see her recipe below:

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