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Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

The ancient city of Palmyra has been virtually destroyed during the war in Syria, along with other historic sites. Refugees will be trained to be part of the rebuilding.

If this works out, it certainly would be poetic justice. The idea is for Syrian refugees to be given the opportunity to help rebuild a world historic site destroyed by Isil [ISIS].

Here’s what Anny Shaw reported at the Art Newspaper. “The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is launching a £500,000 scheme to train Syrian refugees living in and around the Zaatari camp on the Jordanian border in traditional stone masonry. The aim is to develop skills so that cultural heritage sites that have been caught in crossfire or destroyed by Isil can be rebuilt once peace is restored to Syria.

“Organisers of the training course, which is due to launch in the border town of Mafraq in Jordan in August, are also hoping to recruit Jordanian students in a bid to alleviate some of the pressures put on the local community by the volume of people fleeing war-torn Syria. The project is being developed with Petra National Trust, a Jordanian not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to promote the protection and conservation of the Unesco World Heritage site of Petra.

“ ‘There has been enormous destruction in Palmyra, Nimrud and Aleppo,’ says John Darlington, the executive director of the World Monuments Fund Britain, which is working with the New York-based WMF on the scheme. ‘When the dust settles, one of the things that will stop restoration is that we will see money going into places like Palmyra but the skills on the ground won’t be there. Because so many people have left, there’s a huge skills deficit.’ …

“The blueprint for the Syrian project came from a similar scheme begun by the WMF in Zanzibar two years ago. While the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral was being repaired, an intensive programme of skills development was also launched. There is now a pool of local trained stone masons to help with future repairs.

“ ‘We are looking for stone masons who are already living in the local community or in the refugee community. It’s a long-held tradition in that part of the world,’ Darlington says. ‘We don’t want to parachute in a load of experts and then leave. The idea is to train people who will become trainers themselves, so it will cascade.’ ”

More at the Art Newspaper, here. Hat Tip: ArtsJournal.

 

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In Denmark, a beekeeping program is not only beneficial to the environment but a good way for refugee workers to settle in to a new culture.

Jennifer Hattam writes at Take Part about bees atop Copenhagen’s convention center that pollinate crops, produce honey, provide employment, and help flavor a local beer.

“The honey and the beer are the fruits of the innovative project Bybi, named after the Danish word for ‘city bee.’ Its mission: to use urban beekeeping to create a greener Copenhagen, connect residents with the city around them, and bring together and employ people from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and the formerly homeless.

“Syrian beekeeper Aref Haboo is among Bybi’s small staff. He kept dozens of hives back in his home village while also working as a civil servant and agricultural consultant. Like millions of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, Haboo made the treacherous journey to Europe, part of it smuggled in the cargo hold of a truck, leaving behind his wife and three children to find a safer place for them all to live. A year ago, he was able to reunite his family in Denmark. …

“Haboo recently helped teach a season-long apiculture course to a mixed group of around 20 Syrians, Africans, and Europeans, who produced 450 kilograms of honey from hives in a Copenhagen park. Graduates who want to continue working with bees will receive support from Bybi, and proceeds from the sale of the first course’s honey will help fund training sessions.

“ ‘A lot of our residents have difficulties getting into the Danish labor market, whether because of language issues, skills gaps, or health problems. Working with Bybi is good for them in terms of getting out to meet people and doing something constructive, something they can be proud of,’ says Simon Christopher Hansen, cultural coordinator for the Copenhagen public housing association 3B. …

“With relatively high rates of winter mortality among honeybees in Denmark, Bybi’s urban hives also help ensure that bee populations stay healthy — along with the green environment they nurture and depend on.

“In a way, [social entrepreneur Oliver Maxwell, who founded Bybi in 2010] sees the hive as a model for Bybi and for humanity. ‘We’re looking at ways we can work together that protect our communities and enrich our environment,’ he says. ‘That’s what bees do: They create bigger apples, richer strawberries; they help everything thrive.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Bybi
Beekeeping in Copenhagen helps refugees and the environment.

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Refugees continue to be on my mind, and I can’t resist any story about ordinary, kind-hearted people who recognize that no one would leave their homeland on a dangerous, uncertain journey unless they were desperate.

Sam Warner at Huck magazine (“Huck celebrates independent culture – people and movements that paddle against the flow”) has examples of kindness from the past year.

“Where European governments have largely failed, individuals across the continent have stepped up to help the plight of  refugees in any way they can. Here are some of them.

“Two Dresden writers showed solidarity with the refugees by painting ‘welcome’ in Arabic on the side of a train carriage in the city. …

“As migrants arrived in Munich, they were greeted with applause from Germans waiting for them at the train station. On top of that, they were given food, water and toys for the children and people also held up signs that said ‘welcome.’

“While refugees were stuck in Hungary, a convoy of Austrian volunteers called ‘refugeeconvoy’ crossed the border to distribute aid and help refugees cross through Western Europe.  …

“Numerous Icelandic residents have joined an initiative to help the refugees, started by writer Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir. Her Facebook page Syria is Calling already has over 17,000 likes, using the slogan: ‘Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.’

“It encourages the government to take in more refugees, whose numbers have been officially capped at 50. It has also inspired American initiative Open Homes, Open Hearts US – with Syrian refugees, which aims to raise awareness across the Atlantic and lobby the US government to accept more refugees. …

“Outside Budapest’s main railway station, a group of volunteers set up a projector and screened Tom and Jerry for refugee children to watch. They had been barricaded outside the station by authorities for 48 hours … .

“Refugee Phrasebook is an online collaborative project that aims to give important vocabulary for orientation that can be distributed to refugees. Its collaborative aspect means that experts can improve and update the material as it goes along. The project has phrases in 28 languages.”

More here.

Photo: Thomas Rassloff on Flickr

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A New York Times article that was widely shared yesterday detailed how eager many Canadians are to welcome refugees. Enthusiastic, sometimes a bit bossy, they are volunteering in droves to make a difference in the lives of anxious families who have been through the mill.

It reminded me of other welcome stories I’ve been collecting. Small towns, in particular, seem to feel they could benefit from welcoming refugees.

On Nagu, a remote island on the southwest tip of Finland, migrants have found open arms.

Giles Duley writes in the Guardian, “From the start, the people of Nagu made their guests feel welcome. A Facebook group was set up, activities suggested, volunteers came forward. ‘It was exciting,’ says Mona Hemmer, a bastion of Nagu life and one of the organisers of activities for the refugees. …

“Of course, for the refugees, being busy does not erase their past or the uncertainty of their future. … Many still find it hard to sleep, aware that until their asylum applications have been processed, they have not reached the end of their journey.

“However, the warm welcome of the Nagu people has made a difference. And despite their initial reservations, the islanders now feel that it is the refugees who have brought them something.”  More.

In this Al Jazeera story by Thomas Bruckner, refugees are reviving faded Italian villages.

“The village of Riace had seen its population drop from 2,500 to 400 since the 1990s, when people moved to northern Italy for better economic opportunities.

“Domenico Lucano, Mayor of Riace, saw the flow of refugees in Italy as an opportunity. ‘We have been welcoming refugees with open arms for the past 15 years. [They have] saved our village,’ Lucano explained.

“The resourceful mayor first acted on this opportunity in 1998, when a boat with 218 Kurdish refugees on their way to Greece got stranded on a beach in Riace. This is when Lucano first proposed that the refugees should stay in the village and take over the homes and apartments that had been left vacant by the migrating former residents of the town.

“The mayor helped to facilitate the integration by establishing a ‘refugees welcome’ project, which is now spreading through neighbouring towns.”

Here’s a PBS story by Jason M. Breslow about a small town in Germany that wants more population. “With Goslar’s population shrinking by around 2,000 people per year as young people flee to bigger cities and older residents die, [Mayor Oliver] Junk sees refugees as key to the town’s future.

“ ‘Europeans must welcome and integrate refugees, accepting that they are not a burden but a great opportunity,’ Junk wrote in an op-ed published last month in the policy journal Europe’s World.”

The mayor has also said, “Anyone who tells me Germany is full up, or that we can’t afford them, I say think of our past, and of the future. Of course we can afford them – we’re a rich country, and we have a duty to help those in need.’ ” More from PBS.

And here’s a story closer to home. Brian MacQuarrie writes at the Boston Globe about Rutland, Vermont, and its interest in refugees.

“Mayor Christopher Louras has unveiled a plan, developed in near-secrecy, to resettle 100 Syrian refugees who fled the onslaught of the Islamic State and are exiled in sprawling Jordanian camps. …

“Most residents appear ready to welcome the refugees, mindful of the harrowing images of Syrians desperately seeking refuge outside their ravaged country….

“ ‘The benefits, economically and culturally, that we will recognize is exactly what the community needs at this time,’ said Louras, the grandson of a Greek immigrant who fled the Ottoman Turks a century ago. ‘As much as I want to say it’s for compassionate reasons, I realize that there is not a vibrant, growing, successful community in the country right now that is not embracing new Americans.’ ” More at the Globe.

Photo: Giles Duley/UNCHR
Volunteers from Nagu, a small island in Finland, laugh with refugees during a New Year’s Eve concert put on by local musicians.

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One place that refugees are making a life for themselves is in Kansas City, Kansas, where some are bridging their current and former lives through farming.

Oluwakemi Aladesuyi reports at National Public Radio, “In the midst of boxy yellow and brown public housing, beyond the highway and past empty grain elevators, sits Juniper Farm. It’s spread over nine acres on the Kansas side of Kansas City.

“As their children play on the grassy knoll behind us, four women sit at a plastic picnic table speaking in Karen, a language spoken in parts of Myanmar [Burma].

“They’re students at a program called New Roots for Refugees. The program aims to teach the basics and business of farming [in America] to refugees over the course of four years. At the end, many of the graduates are ready to start farms of their own.

“It’s a joint effort between Catholic Charities and Cultivate Kansas City, a nonprofit that encourages locally grown food and urban agriculture. …

“Many of the men and women at New Roots come from Myanmar or Bhutan. Some were farmers in their homelands. But farming on the outskirts of Kansas City is different: the land, the crops and even the weather. …

“Many who’ve come here are happy to have escaped violence. But adapting to life in a new country, with a different language and customs, is still difficult. Many refugees struggle economically. …

“August Gaw [is] 25 years old and often translates for her mother, Beh paw Gaw, who graduated from New Roots a few years ago. …

“August used to come here to help her mother. But now Beh paw has her own 3-acre farm which she runs with her sister. Last year the operation made more than $10,000. The potential to make money is important; many refugee families live below the poverty level.” More here.

Read the story if you have time. One striking aspect: farm manager and adviser Sam Davis, an African American, experienced real intolerance when moving to Kansas from Arkansas, but to one of the Karen women, who had seen extreme isolation of different ethnic groups in Myanmar, America seems prejudice-free.

You might also be interested in this article on Karen people who were relocated to Waterbury, Connecticut. Written by John Giammatteo, it appeared in Communities & Banking magazine in 2012.

Photo: Oluwakemi Aladesuyi/NPR
Beh paw Gaw is a New Roots graduate and a Karen refugee from Myanmar. Now she has her own three acre farm which she runs with her sister.

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Swedish friends of ours have a home on the Greek island of Samos, where boatloads of refugees are landing every day. The family is collecting donations, buying bread, water bottles, diapers, and such, and delivering them to exhausted but grateful families. I will paste here the Facebook translation of the Swedish post, which may not be quite accurate, but you get the picture.

My Mom wrote yesterday:
It has blown hard in the last few days. Looking from the terrace, you can see the coast guard boat coming with inflatable boats on a trailer full of refugees. In the night 200 came, many families with children. Got together with J– and shared out approximately 100 bagettes without meat (Bedun Lachum) but with potatoes, eggs and mayonnaise, croissants, biscuits — also gave out diapers and wipes. The kids have priority always. The next delivery is 50 packages of diapers and 120 packages biscuits. Another 2000 Bottles of water were ordered.”

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Last fall, I blogged about the worthy Granola Project, which gives employment to refugees in Rhode Island. It is housed at the social service agency Amos House in Providence. I bought some of the granola at the farmers market a just last week.

Now Sarah Shemkus has written for the Boston Globe about a similar initiative for refugees in Massachusetts, but with the goal of helping refugee women to spin off companies on their own.

“Moo Kho Paw fled the violence and oppression of Myanmar for a refugee camp in Thailand nearly a decade ago,” writes Shemkus. “Five years later, she, her husband, and their baby daughter resettled again, this time landing in Springfield.

“As she adapted to her new home, Paw started looking for a job … That’s when she learned about Prosperity Candle, the Easthampton company where she has now worked for three years.

“ ‘I love the job,’ Paw said. ‘It helps me to pay the rent, to buy the baby diapers.’

“That’s precisely what Ted Barber, 46, hoped for when he and partner Amber Chand founded Prosperity Candle in 2010. … Sales are only part of its mission — the company says its real goal is to help women in and from developing countries by teaching them new skills and creating jobs. …

“In Easthampton, the company employs refugees such as Paw to make and package candles and fulfill orders. Currently, up to four refugees are working there at any given time, though Barber expects to hire more as the business expands. …”

The idea for an enterprise like Prosperity Candle first occurred to Barber when he was working in Africa, helping entrepreneurs build small businesses. …

” ‘I realized I wanted to do something different.’ …

“Rather than giving away money or supplies, [his] company would provide women with the resources, skills, and support they need to start a sustainable businesses. …

“Prosperity Candle formed as a low-profit limited liability company, a structure that requires the business to put its social mission ahead of profits.”

More.

Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe
Moo Kho Paw (left) and Naw Test made candles at Prosperity Candle in Easthampton.

Prosperity Candle formed as a low-profit limited liability company, a structure that requires the business to put its social mission ahead of profits.

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