UNSEEN AMERICA NYS

September 28, 2009

unseen america kidCheck it out: A beautiful project done by the Workforce Development Institute. Photography classes for refugee people. Stories, poems, and pictures. Absolutely beautiful. UNSEEN AMERICA NYSUnseen America Feet

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Playing For Change

September 28, 2009

Touring this fall. They are incredible: Playing For Change.

Allocations

September 25, 2009

So…In my most recent/previous posts I have mentioned a few different events that I have gotten to attend this past week, but let me take a little bit of time to go ahead and explain more fully what’s been happening in my LIRS life:

Allocations (see post from September 24. 2009 entitled “Yesterday…”):

This past Wednesday I got to Penn Station in Baltimore at 7am and I met a great woman named Sarah from World Relief. We got on a train headed towards Washington DC/Union Station. On the way we met a woman named Sovanna that works for LIRS, she would be representing us and selecting our cases for us at the allocation.

So, we are all on the train and get off at Union Station. We then get on the metro, and I get to experience what it simply a daily commute for many… out of control. Downtown DC in the morning is absolutely crazy. People in business suits running everywhere, just like in a movie. We get on the metro and travel to Arlington, Virginia, where we meet Jamie, a Lutheran Volunteer that I work with at LIRS. We all walk to a big building and go up an elevator. We go into a semi-nondescript room in the middle of a very regular looking office. The room has some video cameras, a microphone hanging from the ceiling, and some flat screen TV’s with people on a webcam/conference call from New York.

We sit down and are handed a giant stack of papers. Allocations begin. There are five different “pools” of refugee cases; we go through each pool, until each case has been spoken for by a different agency. I will do my best to describe what qualifies someone for a specific “pool” (*note: I may be over simplifying things, but this is the easiest way to begin understanding the basics of what happens each week in Arlington*)

Free pool– people with no ties anywhere in the United States, can be resettled anywhere

Free Medical pool– no ties in the U.S., but medical problems ranging from mild to VERY serious

Geo pool– people with “anchors” aka… family, friend or relative in the U.S., so essentially they are requesting to be settled in the specific area or city of their anchor.

Bhutanese pool– There is always a pool reserved for an entire group of people who need to leave their country. Right now it’s Bhutanese people.

SIV Pool– Special Immigration Visas

There are a few other things that happen/categories that were discussed, but, for the most part, discussion is about the cases inside of the 5 different pools. Each refugee’s nationality, ethnicity, religion, and place of asylum are marked in special codes within the giant stack of papers you receive up entry. People select their cases one by one based on percentage, capacity, and ability for different affiliates to help/work with different people… Sometimes an individual case has one person in it, other times an individual case might have twenty people.

This whole thing is quite the event; it happens every week.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

September 24, 2009

Photo by Ziad Jaazzaa
Photo by Ziad Jaazzaa
Tonight in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance is the Baltimore Resettlement Center’s 10th Anniversary celebration. Currently sold out, but if you come after 7:15 tonight there’s a chance you can get some tickets. I’ll write my thoughts on it tomorrow!

Yesterday…

September 24, 2009

I traveled to Washingto D.C. to sit in on/watch weekly refugee allocations, aka, the distribution of this week’s refugee cases coming into the U.S… VERY interesting. Cool to think that one day, some of these cases that I saw get assigned yesterday will begin to take shape, and people will move to the United States. Perhaps then, some of my friends who work for different affiliates will meet these newcomers and get to know them.

Refugee resettlement is SUCH a process!

Two Weeks of Learning

September 18, 2009

I live with people from many different countries. Usually upon walking downstairs into my kitchen, I am struck by the depth of the people by whom I am surrounded.  Since moving to Baltimore I have heard a number of stories: doctors who come to the States and are not licensed to practice anymore, international business owners who loose everything due to circumstances beyond their control. I am ending my second week with LIRS, and at this point I have managed to gather information that has led me  to a seemingly simple conclusion: newcomers to the Untied States are very frequently in a state of complete and utter vulnerability. Things are new, different, and feel out of control. This is really hard.

A story; a continuum of experiences that have created and shaped both thought and belief; people, forces, and knowledge that will continue pushing us forward, further and further into the unknown.  As one story evolves, all characters involved will begin to interact with both individual and communal development. As a 22 year old woman, I recognize my own story as a direct result of the others that I have encountered. My story, just as yours, is a compilation of other stories, those we have seen, heard, and been a part of. I am entirely convinced that to be in relationship with another individual requires absolute interconnectedness of story.

And so it begins, my year as a story-teller in search of transformation. I am a recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University  spending my first year in the “real world” working with Mennonite Volunteer Service (MVS) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) on a special project. This year I will be working with stories, specifically stories of “welcome”. I will spend my days entering into dialogue with both former and recent newcomers to the United States. I will learn and I will listen. I will hear stories of travel, refuge, and expectation. I will listen to stories, and I will tell stories. I will video-tape, record, blog, and journal, as I am shaped and transformed by new stories, people, lives, and experiences.

Follow me, a newcomer to Baltimore, the east coast, MVS, and LIRS, as I travel through the eastern United States, in search of other newcomers. Allow your story to be transformed.

“There is no greater agony then an untold story inside of you”

-Maya Angelou