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ISC: Refugees resettling in Cleveland breathe fresh life into the city
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

The Sixth Annual Summit on the State of International Communities in Cleveland was held at Western Reserve Historical Society on Sept. 24, 2011. Leaders representing many ethnic communities from, Greece, Hungry, Lebanon, India, Romania, Russian, Syria, Sweden, and Vietnam attended and learned about updated from various organizations servicing the international and immigrant communities.

Ken Kovach—president of the Board, International Services Center—said the community does not share enough information with each other and more effort must be made to keep each other abreast of the challenges and accomplishments service organizations are facing.

Recently elected president of Global Cleveland, Larry Miller outlined the strategies the organization plans to implement to draw 100,000 new comers to Cleveland in the next decade. “We are a small organization; we will not be able to do everything,” he said, but emphasized the importance of working with existing organizations for feedback to improve and add projects to their strategic plans.

Miller said the three ways to attract newcomers to Cleveland include: reversing the brain-drain by encouraging employers to hire and retain international students; boomerangs encouraging those with ties in Cleveland and Ohio to return and start families and businesses here, and attracting foreign talent. “One of the most important parts of attraction is making sure they have a strong solid connection with their ethnic communities in Cleveland,” Miller said.

Ken Kovach highlights the various agencies that serve the international and immigrant communities in Cleveland

Karen Wishner, executive director of International Services Center, said refugees resettling in Cleveland breathe fresh life into the city. ISC ensures they find housing, language translation services, enroll children in schools and navigate health care. “Giving someone hope is a very powerful thing, you never know how it will impact their life,” she said.

Wishner said refugees have an immediate impact on the economy, and their children regularly contribute to increase in standardized test scores. “They grab on to chances because they have nothing to lose,” she said.

ISC is facing financial difficulty and Wishner requests support to continue existing programs that impact the lives of many in the city.

Another newcomer on the scene is Worldwide Intercultural Network, and Vice President Harry Weller said organization’s approach is to capitalize on the energy within the young and mobilize the grassroots for economic development. “There is a lot of energy in this town, and we can work hand-in-glove with Global Cleveland to harness the economic power that already exists,” said Weller.

WIN-Cleveland hosted its second event at Cleveland City Hall with an International Arts Show and Bazaar featuring 28 artists from 13 different countries, music and dance performances and tastes of ethnic foods. It will be co-hosting a mixer with Society of Urban Professionals in October and a holiday diversity celebration with Mayor Frank G. Jackson in December.

The strength of the organization is the diversity of its board, said Pierre Bejjami. “It is very refreshing to see all of the cultures sitting together at the table working together,” he said.

Ron Berger, director of the Latino Initiative, said Global Cleveland is an answer to his prayers; its mission is filling a void he saw in the community for a long time. He is encouraged by the approach Miller has taken in moving the organization forward and said the Latino community must mobilize to help the organization with its mission and address it own needs. The initiative is focusing on getting voters registered to participate in the upcoming November elections.

Miller said the Latino community can be an active agent by spreading the word about Cleveland with family and associates overseas; encourage students to pursue in demand fields. He said it is important to break the myths about Cleveland.

Global Cleveland next seminar will be in December to educate employers on recruiting and hiring international student, navigating work visa sponsorships and more.

About Global Cleveland (www.globalcleveland.org)
Global Cleveland is a civic organization committed to regional economic development by actively attracting newcomers, welcoming and connecting them both economically and socially to the many opportunities throughout Greater Cleveland.  The initiative has raised more than $1 million in funding from Huntington Bank, Forest City Enterprises, The Cleveland Foundation, Jewish Federation of Cleveland, The Maltz Foundation, and The George Gund Foundation.

Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/04/11 13:07:23 -0700.





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