Posts Tagged ‘Erie’

Here’s an upbeat story about the contributions of immigrants.  It relates to an area of Erie, Pennsylvania, that got a shot of adrenaline when entrepreneurial refugees began opening markets to serve various ethnicities.

Erika Beras reported at PRI radio’s The World, “Much of Erie, Pennsylvania is a food desert — people don’t have easy access to fresh or nutritious food. But [stores] run by refugees are popping up and making a big difference.

“At UK Supermarket, Samantha Dhungel pulls bags of vegetables out of the freezer. In her cart are onions and eggplant, but she pulls out a vegetable she only knows by its Nepali name. It’s a leafy green that her Nepalese husband uses in his cooking. …

“Before this store opened two years ago, there were a couple convenience stores and a few fast food spots around. All of them sold food that wasn’t nutritious, says Alex Iorio. She’s the public health educator for the Erie Department of Health. She says this place is different. …

“Most of the stores carry fresh foods and whole-grain items. Before, if people in the neighborhood wanted fresh vegetables, cornmeal or nuts, they’d have to drive across town or to the suburbs.

“Then two years ago, Pradip Upreti, a Nepalese refugee, opened UK Supermarket. … He wasn’t trying to solve the food desert problem — none of the store owners were. They just wanted refugees in Erie, who make up 10 percent of the city, to have access to specific foods.

“People would drive distances and buy up items like jackfruit and halal pizza. Then they’d resell those items to people in their community. Upreti saw a business opening there. …

“Upreti’s store carries mostly South Asian foods. Across the street is an Iraqi owned store that carries lots of spices. Around the corner, another Iraqi store specializes in fish and meats like lamb and goat. And there are well over a dozen more stores like them.” More here.

Many immigrants become small business owners. Happily for their neighbors and other people who enjoy foods from around the world, some of them open grocery stores.

Photo: Erika Beras
Pradip Upreti, center, stocks shelves in his Erie, Pennsylvania store, UK Supermarket.


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In Erie, Pennsylvania, one woman had an idea that led to something big. She was a folklorist who loved collecting and sharing songs of different cultures. One day she was thinking about the refugee women in her town when light bulbs started to go off.

The first light bulb involved curiosity about the songs the women brought with them. The second light bulb was about wondering if the women would share their songs with local children. The third light bulb was about how the women might be trained for preschool jobs incorporating music.

At PRI (Public Radio International), Erika Beras reports on Kelly Armor and what she accomplished through the Power of One. The story starts with Beras visiting a class run by Sudanese refugee Marta Sam.

“Marta Sam is surrounded by really energetic 4-year-olds. She’s at St. Martin’s Day Care in Erie, Pennsylvania, guiding the kids as they sing and dance.

“Sam sings in Arabic, then English. She takes the students through a Congolese song, followed by ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed.’ The kids follow her cues, dancing and calling out their favorite songs. Sam is used to this.

“ ‘When they see me in the classroom they say, “Miss Marta can we do this? Miss Marta can we sing this? Miss Marta can we jump?” ‘ she says. ‘Yeah, I will jump with them and get silly like them — working with the kids you just get down in their level and just … mess with them.’

“Sam, 59, is a roving educator at St. Martin’s Day Care. She goes from room to room and sings lullabies from all over the world with the kids. Originally from South Sudan, she came to Erie 13 years ago as part of the first wave of thousands of refugees who have resettled in this small Rust Belt city.

“She worked at a plastics factory and started learning English. Then she heard she could get job training to work in day cares. In return she’d share the traditional songs she had sung to her children when they were young.

“It was just what she needed.

‘Oh, it changed my life very much. … I’m somebody now,’ she says.

“Sam works at St. Martin’s because of ‘Old Songs, New Opportunities,’ a program dreamed up by Kelly Armor, a folklorist and educator at the Erie Art Museum. Armor is from Erie, but spent time in the ’80s studying traditional song in Kenya and Tanzania. When she noticed refugees settling in Erie in recent years, she had an idea.

“ ‘Could it be that … there are refugee women [who] would love to work with small children? And could it be that they know lots of songs and they know how to use songs with kids?’ she wondered.

“It turned out they did, and in some cases the songs were all they bought to the US. That was the case for Victoria Angelo, who is also from South Sudan.

“ ‘I was not able to bring anything. No dishes, nothing, no [clothing],’ she says. ‘What I actually brought with me was the songs.’ …

More at PRI, here, where you also can listen to a lovely collection of songs.

Photo: Erika Beras
Marta Sam, who emigrated from South Sudan 13 years ago, sings with a classroom of four-year-olds.

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I caught Public Radio International’s Living on Earth program Saturday morning and felt reassured to hear about a new generation of environmentalists.

The story that caught my attention was on the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), which recently “announced the three winning high schools for the Sustainable Energy Award, sponsored by Samsung: Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie, Pa.; Boston Latin School, Boston, Mass.; and Secondary Academy for Success, Bothell, Wash.”

The judges found that the three schools “demonstrated a school-wide effort to achieve energy savings through the creative and innovative use of technology. Each school will receive $10,000 to further their initiatives.”

For example, in 2008, an environmental group at Boston Latin “conducted an energy audit of the school with help from the local utility NSTAR. Improving on the score of 59 out of 100 meant a strong energy efficiency initiative. The school turned off the lights in vending machines after school, lowered the hot water temperature, and replaced hundreds of light bulbs in the auditorium ceiling with more energy-efficient bulbs. …

“The school has had two fundraisers that generated more than $12,000 to support their initiative. With help from the Facilities Department of the Boston Public Schools, the school implemented a $75,000 lighting retrofit that saves 200,000 kWh and $33,000 a year. The school also installed a 28-panel PV array on its roof through a partnership with the City of Boston’s energy department and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The system displays real-time data on electricity generated, and the school is putting this data online for study by other students.”

One thing that stands out is the effort to involve a lot of students, not just a small green group. Making the effort  broader should help it expand. More here.

Photograph: National Environmental Education Foundation

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