December 24, 2007
A Dominican nun, a freelance writer and a principal of a prestigious school founded the International Community School in DeKalb County, Georgia to address the cultural and language barrier that many children of the refugee immigrants faced after arriving there in the late 1990’s.
In the last ten years, thousands of refugee children have come to DeKalb County, bringing not only gifts and talents but also the deep physical and spiritual wounds of war. Today the county is home to the highest percentage of refugees in the southeastern United States. (ICS)
Student population here represents over 40 nation and over 50 languages are spoken in the hallways. But children of refugees only compose half of all pupils. The other half is diverse in a socio-economic manner.
Parents from low-income families tend to choose the school over other nearby public schools because it is safe and has small classes. More affluent parents seek it for the potential benefits of exposure to so many cultures. Most of the middle- and upper-middle-class parents are social progressives from Decatur, a liberal enclave. (NYT)
Understandably, the community school faces expected challenges specific to each refugee student’s experience from the emigrated country.
Two sisters from Afghanistan seemed terrified as they arrived each day. As refugees in Pakistan, the children had worked making carpets. Exhausted, they regularly dozed at school, which drew beatings. The sisters had assumed such beatings were standard at every school.
A Sudanese girl was so traumatized from war and relocation that she insisted on sitting on the floor beneath her desk each day.
Fortunately, the school staff is as diversely represented as the student body. Which helps faculty understand or, in some cases, relate to their students.
Naza Orlovic, a teacher’s assistant from Bosnia, said her experience as a refugee allowed her to recognize and to soothe hurt feelings that frequently arose out of cultural misunderstandings.
“I constantly remind them how lucky we are,” said Hodan Osman, 27, a tutor separated from her parents at age 10 during the civil war in Somalia.
“We could have been killed,” she said, “and not only are we here, but we’re in a place where we’re celebrated. I tell them they can take everything away from you, but your knowledge is in your head, and it makes you brave.”
Presently, there are strong plans to add a middle school to the institution. And a founder desires to open a health clinic for the refugees there.
Maybe not apparent at first glance, but the location of the school is a bit ironic. The region used to be a Ku Klux Klan haven.
November 18, 2007
“I have never seen such a catastrophe in my 20 years as a government administrator,” said Harisprasad Pal, a local official in the hard-hit southern district of Jhalokati. (ABC)
On eve of Thursday, Nov. 15, The tropical Cyclone Sidr has devastated much of southern Bangladesh with its 140 miles per hour wind, claiming over 2000 lives, destroying entire communities, and displacing over 650,000 people from their homes, said Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official.
In one district, called Shatkhira, according to local journalists, roughly 5,000 mud homes collapsed back into the ground. Local relief workers for Caritas, the Catholic relief agency, reported that an entire island in Barisal district was submerged under at least six feet of water and houses were blown away by winds. (IHT)
Over a million had evacuated their homes for nearby safe shelters. Upon their return, a few have, if at all, have found a place to return to. Realizing so, foreign countries and concerned organization rush to provide aid.
U.S. government has provided an initial $2.1 million in emergency relief aide. (AP)
Direct Relief International Reaching Out to Partners in Bangladesh, Releases $280,000 in Medical Aid. (DR)
Action Aid team is carrying emergency relief items which include 2000kg of beaten rise, molasses, oral re-hydration salts, clothes and water purification tablets. ActionAid intends to reach over 5000 families with these supplies. (AA)
The U.N.’s humanitarian chief on Friday said the world body has made several millions of dollars available for aid to Bangladesh (IHT)
Of course, similar to Hurricane Katrina and the flood in Tabasco, Mexico, all were aware beforehand that this part of Bangladesh was dangerously prone to such devastating storm.
And as is the custom, nothing was done about it.
November 10, 2007
“We weren’t able to go to church because we didn’t have any money for transport and my father had a fever so my mother and I had to wash clothes for money.” (link)
That excerpt was from an entry in 11-year-old Mariannet Amper’s diary. She committed suicide by hanging herself with a nylon cord Nov. 2, likely because of her family’s unfortunate state in poverty.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the media has blown out of proportion an “isolated case.” A comment that enraged many to protest on the streets. Although he later added, “we take responsibility for everything because we are leaders of government. We need to ensure that services are there.”
A representative of an NGO, Global Call to Action against Poverty, said, “One death is too much.”
“We were shocked and saddened by the news of the suicide of 11 year-old girl, and for a few hours our world stopped. To hear the government reducing her death to an isolated case is outrageous.”
Crowds of sympathizers filed into the Santa Cruz chapel, where the Mass for the 12-year-old girl was held, before proceeding in a long procession to the unkempt cemetery, which looked as miserable as the girl’s destitute life.
Stepping on tombs, some of the girl’s classmates wailed as they took a last look at their classmate, whom they described as “jolly,” now lying in a white wooden coffin under a lone mango tree amidst a jungle of poorly kept tombs. (link)
All classmates and community members that attended the funeral agree that Mariannet made a poor choice. They too are affected by the poverty crisis, but wouldn’t resort to such drastic measure. Her classmate, Mary Riza Jumawan, 12, said that her family’s condition is similar, but options still remain.
“We’re also poor but I will not hang myself because I want to study and become a teacher. If my parents can’t afford to send me to school, then I’ll finish my studies as a working student like (my) elder sisters”
24-year-old mother of three, Anabel Carbonella, a neighbor, maintains the community’s consensus that suicide was an easy way out. She said, “Even if we are poor, we should not stop striving because there is hope if we try hard.”
Mariannet Amper is survived by a younger brother, her mother and father.
October 7, 2007
The people of Congo have never really witnessed peace in their nation. Victimized by the colonists, rebel militias, and self serving leaders, the Congolese accept their life is destined for endless sufferings.
So when I read today’s article on the Times, “Savage Rapes Stoke Trauma of Congo War,” I was broken down to tears.
Eastern Congo is going through another one of its convulsions of violence, and this time it seems that women are being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen here. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country.
There certainly are theories as to who, and what, could be responsible for one of the most heinous crime on this planet. But fingers are being pointed at all directions. Certainly, the Hutu Militia and it’s alumnus, the Rastas.