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 8, 2007
How can you dispute so if the latest study reveals that 25 percent of homeless folks in the United States are war veterans.
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.
And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job. (link)
So this study accounts for the soldiers from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan too. May I throw an unsettling thought in your head? THE WAR IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE INDEFINITELY!
Now I can’t decide what saddens me more: war veterans unfortunate state or how we’ve neglected them after their return… and will likely continue to do so.
“When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it,” said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles.
“I think they’ll be forgotten,” Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ”People get tired of it. It’s not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They’ll just be veterans, and that happens after every war.”
Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Unemployment is an issue to. Jason Kelley, 23, said, “The only training I have is infantry training and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world.”
More statistics from Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at Veterans Affairs Department:
Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA’s homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both.
November 3, 2007
Tens of thousands of residents in the Mexican state of Tabasco were still trapped in their houses on Saturday by floods that have put much of the state under water in what President Felipe Calderón called one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.
The Tabasco governor, Andrés Granier, compared the city this week to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and said some 80 percent of the city had been flooded. (link)
Understandably, when one compares any disaster to Hurricane Katrina, the first questions that comes to mind is how many folks died? And what part of the city is no more?
Well as stated above, 80% of Tabasco is under water. President Calderon said, “red-tiled rooftops were all that could be seen of many houses.” And Governor Granier said, “half of the state’s 2 million residents were affected by flooding.” Although only one death is reported, many folks are unaccounted for, and the official death toll hasn’t been released.
Another similarity that supports the titled comparison is that the state of Tabasco is prone to floods, similar to New Orleans. And in a like manner was ill prepared.
Tabasco, which is on a low-lying plain, often suffers from flooding. After the last serious flooding in 1999, the state and federal governments began work on a complex flood-control project, but it was never completed.
Mr. Granier, who is from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, pressed Mr. Calderón for a commitment to finish the work. (link)
For official updates visit the state of Tobasco’s Web site. You’ll find more information there on how you can either volunteer or donate for the 800,000 affected.
October 27, 2007
15 years ago, Tina Healy of Victoria, Australia was a victim of rape and robbery. The man responsible was found two months later. Something that should have caused a bit of relief to Healy. But it didn’t.
Ms Healy said nothing prepared her for when her attacker was caught two months later and then having to go through the legal system.
She said there was no guide to tell her what to expect.
“There was just a lot of things I did not know, and of course every victim that comes into the system is a babe in the woods,” Ms Healy said. (link)
Healy found this to be a common case with several other victims she spoke to. So she, alongside other victims like her, worked with the Victorian police to put together a downloadable manual that would address already familiar concerns for new victims, “A Victim’s Guide to Support Services and the Criminal Justice System.”
Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said the statement and booklet followed extensive community consultation over the past 12 months, along with the input of victims of crime, such as Ms Healy, over several years.