My First Completed Video

December 17, 2009

EVERYONE! Click to see my FIRST COMPLETED VIDEO! WAHOO! I am the happiest!

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My name is Jamie Lennon, and like Beth I am a volunteer with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service until August 2010, and like Beth I am not a native of Baltimore. In fact I am not even a native of this country. I am from Wales in the United Kingdom and I have come to the States to enroll in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. A program that offers individuals the chance to live out their commitment to social justice by partnering them with an organization whose mission lends itself to that cause.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service certainly does that. Refugees and immigrants are some of the most vulnerable persons in our societies and are all too often the first up against the wall when times get tough. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service proactively calls for fair treatment of all migrants by promoting greater awareness of migration issues; advocating for humane laws and polices and by offering many much needed services such as our Refugee Works program which is committed to helping refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency.  My role within LIRS allows me to promote social justice by engaging with individuals and organizations to promote greater awareness of immigration issues and get more people involved in immigration ministry and advocacy.

 As a migrant myself I have discovered some very sincere welcomes since arriving in the United States. From the people I work with, to those I live with to the many, many people I interact with on a daily basis. I have also met many fellow migrants from places far and wide. One thing I have discovered in my search of welcome is that the most welcoming among the people I have met have been those who have lived that similar journey, namely the migrants that live among us. I believe that this is in part due to their experiences and their wish to relate to others who have similar stories to share.

Living in a different country and indeed a different Culture has allowed me to better relate with the experiences of the people we, at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service serve, having shared an element of their story. I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with many angels of welcome and this has deepened my resolve to offer the same welcome to all persons. Croeso!

Art On Purpose

December 7, 2009

Baltimore residents! Visit the Walter’s Art Museum’ s Art On Purpose: Heroes in Our Midst exhibit, up until January 3rd, 2010.  A presentation and reception for the exhibit was put on yesterday, and the art remains available for viewing.

“… Twenty Years of Wandering, on view from Nov. 11, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010, is about the Odysseus-like heroism it takes for refugees, immigrants and the homeless to survive and thrive in Baltimore. It will feature artwork created by clients of several Baltimore social service organizations that serve the homeless and refugee populations.”

Art On Purpose: Heroes in Our Midst

As mentioned earlier, I spent the beginning of this week running around upstate New York, meeting people, taking pictures, video taping, and talking with refugees from all over the world. My Monday morning began as I walked into the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) in Utica, New York. After getting a bit turned around and wandering through a large old school, peering into different classrooms full of students studying English, I was directed downstairs to the main office of the resource center. As I turned the corner to walk into the center’s reception area I was immediately energized by the amount of people and connections that seemed to be happening everywhere. A comfortable, inviting, and lively place, I found the MVRCR to be full of incredible people with beautiful hearts.

After checking in at the front desk I was soon greeted by Alison, my fabulous tour guide for the day. I quickly got the rundown on the schedule and we were off! First stop was a mosque, run by the Bosnian Islamic Association of Utica. Here we met the prayer leader, Ahmedin, a 23-year-old refugee from Bosnia.

After speaking with him and getting a tour of the mosque we followed Ahmedin to Amy’s Grocery and Deli, a store owned by his friend Dzeusad, and Dzeusad’s wife Amiod. We saw both the grocery store as well as a beauty salon next door, also owned by Dzeusad and his family.

  

After hanging out and taking a few photos Alison and I were in the car and off to eat lunch at a monastery of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance.

 Here we ate a DELICIOUS Burmese lunch, and talked with our new friends U Agga and U Gawsita about Burma and their experience with coming to the United States.

Finally, our last stop of the day was at the home of Abdelshakour, the MVRCR’s IT person/computer whiz. In conversation and a video interview we learned about his travels from Sudan to Egypt, and then finally from Egypt to the United States. This was it for Monday. A long and eventful day, full of stories and people that I felt so honored to meet and speak with.

After a good night’s sleep on Monday I woke up and drove to Troy, NY. Here I visited with Erin, a teacher and class coordinator for Unseen America NYS with the Workforce Development Institute. I got a chance to hear about the photography classes run through the Unseen America project.

 

These classes interact with the idea of story, and give people a chance to share their experiences through both word and image. Assigned a new topic each week, students of Unseen America NYS projects learn the ins-and-outs of picture taking, while capturing images and writing poetry descriptive of their surroundings. After meeting with Erin and learning about the class, it was time for my very last visit of the trip; off to Zekriya’s house, a former student of Unseen America.

 

 At Zekriya’s home I learned of his travels from Afghanistan to Moscow, and then from Moscow to the United States. We discussed the differences between these different places, and what it was like leaving home. We also discussed his photos and the Unseen America classes. Check out some of his photos and poetry here!

After another yet exciting day I returned home to my grandparents house, very excited about the people I met and the inspiring work happening in upstate New York.

Organizing My Life

December 3, 2009

After a week of being sick, spending Thanksgiving with my grandparents in upstate New York, and finally visiting both the LIRS affiliate in Utica-The Mohawk Valley Resource Center-and Unseen America NYS in Troy, I am now back in the office. The day has been spent in an effort to organize my life. This entails going through the photos and videos I have taken, and making note of each person that I have met. Check out the photos below;  a brief montage of my experiences throughout the past two months.

Daughter of Vung Lam Man: Lancaster, PA

Rakhima Arabora and Family: Lancaster, PA

Nooralha Dasaleh: Lancaster, PA

The Hajrizi Family, Lee and Ralph Klesius: New Castle, DE

Ahmedin: Utica, NY

Amiod and Dzeusad: Utica, NY

U Gawsita and U Agga: Utica, NY

Unseen America NYS: Troy, NY

Zekriya, Previous student of Unseen America NYS: Albany, NY