Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

Photo: WeWork
Global shared-workspace company WeWork offers coffee, local beer, ample space for community events — and jobs for refugees and veterans.

Here’s a business that expects to do well by doing good. It’s shared-workspace company WeWork, which a news outlet in Philadelphia says has started offering jobs to refugees.

Marielle Mondon at PhillyVoice reports, “WeWork, one of the biggest companies spearheading the transition from traditional offices to millennial-luring co-working spaces, has announced a new commitment to hire 1,500 refugees globally in the next five years.

“The announcement comes just days after the company announced it would also hire the same number of veterans in its offices over the next five years. WeWork began seeking refugee employees through a pilot program based in New York [in 2017], working with the International Rescue Committee for a total of 50 hires. …

“In addition to encouraging WeWork offices to reach their hiring quotas, the company will also help provide refugees with mentorships and language courses. …

“Several other companies have made public initiatives to offer refugees a means of employment as they try to establish their new lives. … Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022. … Companies including Chobani and Uber made similar promises.

“WeWork CEO Adam Neumann told the Washington Post that the refugee pledge was … a way to help solve the growing problem of refugee displacement.

“The Post reports that the refugee jobs during the pilot program in New York [involved] workers taking care of the daily maintenance and tenant assistance needed in WeWork spaces.” More here.

You know what? Although the WeWork target client is a millennial, I can easily see an elderly person who can afford office space signing up to use his computer there and hang around young people — the way some older folks use libraries. I wonder if anyone would mind.

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Kurds in Ireland

Photo: Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times
Carrick-on-Shannon, a small town in the west of Ireland, where a group of Kurdish refugees were resettled from Iraq over a decade ago.

No one should claim that adjustment to life in a completely unfamiliar world is easy, but when refugees have no choice but to try and when communities have many kindhearted people, it can work.

Here is a story of how Kurdish refugees adapted to life in Ireland, of all places — and how their new home adapted to them.

Megan Specia writes at the New York Times, “A bold black-and-red sign announces Jamshid Ghafur’s business — ‘Kurdish Barber’ — up a narrow flight of stairs just off the main street of Carrick-on-Shannon in western Ireland. …

“ ‘I am happy with this small business,’ he said as he gestured around the shop with pride. ‘I feel like home here.’

“Mr. Ghafur, 37, is part of a thriving group of Kurds who adopted this small town as their own after a United Nations-supervised refugee resettlement program brought them here more than a decade ago.

“Kajal Allakarami, 29, was 17 when she arrived. … ‘Maybe it wasn’t our ways, maybe it wasn’t our traditions,’ she said, ‘but the way they respected us was huge.’

“In 2005 and 2006, around 100 Kurdish refugees, most Muslim, arrived in Carrick-on-Shannon, population 5,000, plucked from decades of displacement. …

“The government provided social welfare and language courses for the adults, while the children enrolled in the local schools. Volunteers brought food and clothes, [Fawzieh] Amiri said. Among them was Nora Burke, a Roman Catholic nun, who visited Mrs. Amiri weekly to help her practice English.

“Still, the adjustment was not easy. Sister Nora said some locals resented the state-funded support the Kurds received.

“ ‘Carrick-on-Shannon was not prepared,’ she said. ‘They just arrived and some in Carrick thought: “God, who are these people? Where did they come from? What are they here for?” ‘ …

“But bit by bit, the Kurds established themselves. …

“For members of the younger generation, resettlement has been a complex process of not just understanding Ireland but of coming to terms with their Kurdish and Irish identities. …

“Some found the adjustment more difficult. Jabar Azizi and his twin brother were 16 when their family arrived.

“ ‘My age group, it was really, really difficult for us,’ Mr. Azizi said. ‘Even though I was in Ireland, my mind was somewhere else.’

“Still, he made it through school, and credits the small town.

“ ‘They respected us and our religion,’ Mr. Azizi said. ‘They respected the way we wanted to live.’ …

“But it took tragedy for the Azizi family and the rest of the Kurdish community to know they had found a true home with their new Irish neighbors.

“In March 2012, Jalal Azizi, Jabar’s twin, was swimming with friends in the Shannon river during a rare warm snap when he got into difficulty and drowned. The whole town was shaken. Shops shut their doors and residents lined the road to pay their respects as the 21-year-old’s funeral cortege passed by.

“ ‘To be honest, we didn’t expect that with our brother,’ Mr. Azizi said. ‘His death really touched everyone.’ …

“ ‘When he passed away, we saw all the community from Carrick-on-Shannon gathering in my house,’ Mr. Azizi said. ‘It is something I will never forget in the years to come; it is something I will tell my son about.’ ”

More here.

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On September 20, Moby took part in #giveahome 2017 – a day of secret shows in homes around the world in solidarity with refugees. It was organized by Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds. Watch here, http://on.moby.com/2gUdSuL.

Many artistic people are sensitive to the struggles of the disenfranchised. That’s why as many as 1,000 musicians answered a call from Amnesty International to contribute their talents in support of refugees this past September.

Writes Amnesty, “Across more than 200 cities in 60 countries, musicians, artists, activists and local communities came together in a statement of support for the world’s refugees.

“Give a Home, a collaboration between Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds, saw living rooms across the globe play host to more than 300 special performances from some of the world’s leading musicians. …

“From the thousands of Rohingya currently fleeing Myanmar, to the desperate situation faced by those escaping conflicts in Syria and South Sudan, the world is in the grip of its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The global refugee population now stands at more than 22 million people.

“ ‘As the Secretary General I travel a lot and meet a lot of different people. But one person I have never met is a refugee who wanted to be a refugee. By definition, a refugee is a person fleeing a desperate situation of conflict or persecution. They are some of the most vulnerable people in the world,’ said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. …

“Of those 22.5 million, almost all are hosted outside the wealthiest nations, with just ten of the world’s 193 countries hosting more than half its refugees.

“ ‘While it’s a huge number, refugees represent only 0.3% of the world’s population. When we look at it that way, it seems crazy to me that we can’t find a home for all of them,’ said Salil Shetty. …

“Amnesty International’s research shows that four in five people around the world are open to welcoming refugees, while a recent attitudes survey by the World Economic Forum show that a huge 85% of young people in the US would welcome refugees.” More at Amnesty, here.

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Photo: The Guardian
One recent immigrant from Pakistan was welcomed into the home of Jo Haythornthwaite of Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow, an example of individuals stepping up to help refugees.

The hostility to immigrants that fueled the Brexit vote in Britain gets all the attention, but there are other voices. There are always other voices.

Gregory Maniatis writes for the Open Society Foundations about refugee outreach across the British Isles.

” ‘I can’t solve the whole Syrian crisis, but I can do something, for a few people.’ The words of Olwen Thomas, from the port of Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales, probably sum up the feelings of many people around the world, as we follow news reports about the terrible difficulties that have faced refugee families fleeing the conflict in Syria, as well as other crises around the world.

“Thomas, and other members of her community, are now doing something significant through their involvement in the Fishguard Refugee Sponsorship Group. The group was one of the first to respond to a UK scheme first announced last July by the British Home Affairs Minister Amber Rudd and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the leader of the Anglican Church.

“Under the Community Sponsorship program, local groups agree to sponsor refugee families and help them integrate into life in the UK by assisting with things such as finding housing, securing access to medical and social services, arranging English language tuition, and supporting them towards employment and self-sufficiency. …

“One Welsh group in the small town of Cardigan has raised £12,000 as part of its application to the scheme. Vicky Moller, a member of the group, told the BBC … ‘People are very, very keen to help.’

“The sponsorship model being launched in towns and cities across England and Wales is partly inspired by a hugely successful effort launched in Canada in 1979, when the mayor of Ottawa, Marion Dewar, mobilized an effort by community groups to settle 4,000 mostly Southeast Asian refugees. To date, Canadian communities and citizens have resettled almost 300,000 refugees through its private sponsorship program. …

“Chris Clements, a director of Social Finance UK, … has noted the shortcomings of ‘traditional’ refugee resettlement in the UK, which has left many refugee families isolated and struggling to adapt to their new surroundings. This in turn results in high rates of unemployment, depression, stress, and other problems.

“Community sponsorship, Clements says, ‘enables local people to take responsibility for resettling a refugee family, supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives.’ ”

More here.

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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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