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Cleveland celebrates World Refugee Day

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

June 20, 2012 marked the 62nd year of World Refugee Day and for the first time the City of Cleveland hosted a collaborative celebration to raise funds for the International Services Center that focuses on resettling providing house and job trainings for the newcomers in Cleveland.

“This is the first time I am aware of anything like this happening,” said Kenneth Kovach, Board of Trustee at ISC said the event will be taking place annually to raise awareness of the way refugees contribute to the Cleveland economy and create a more welcoming city. 

More than 120 guests gathered at Saigon Plaza to recognize the efforts of the organizations that help refugees through ongoing work. Organizations like the Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese, which has helped resettle more than 30 Vietnamese families in the Cleveland region and helped countless others with educational and other needs.

The Friendship Foundation also provides tax assistance for immigrants, refugees, and even those who are undocumented. “People don’t often realize the relationship between paying taxes and the services we use,” said Joseph Miessner, Treasure of Friendship Foundation. He said the tax clinics are open to help anyone and outlined a few guidelines and procedures.

Karin Wishner, Executive Director of ISC, said nearly 800,000 people are displaced around the world as refugees and despite pledges from countries like the U.S. to help the resettlement process is falling short of the expectations. She said between 500- 6000 refugees are resettled into the Cleveland area annually with the largest recent influx from Burma. 

The organization provides many services from fingerprinting to English proficiency. It has recently partnered with Heartland Human Care Service’s Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium (NTAC), a selected group of experienced and comprehensive service organizations that provide and coordinate direct, comprehensive, trauma-informed services to adult and child survivors of human trafficking across 14 states and Puerto Rico. ISC focuses on foreign born survivors of trafficking, helping them find safe affordable housing, obtain training and job placement.

Kovach said the organization helps the refugees hone in skill sets like sewing, to connect them with employment opportunities in the region. “We used to have sewing machines for women to practice with in the office because there are a lot of sewing jobs available,” he said. Kovach added refugees become productive members of society, contributing to the economy in many ways.

Giahoa Ryan and Dr. Maria Pujana

Ken Kovach and Laura Fruscella

Giahoa Ryan and Alex Machaskee

ISC is also working with the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation on a project called Discovering Home, to acquire abandoned, foreclosed and vacant properties and renovating them for refugee families to live. This project provides a safe environment, rebuilds the community, and gives refugees and opportunity to learn responsibilities of being tenants and future home owners.

Guests enjoyed international food donated by local restaurants, partook in raffles and live auctions of Marise Designs necklace and danced to Harmonica’s live music.

For more information visit: http://internationalservicescenter.org

For help filing taxes and learn more about the Friendship Foundation: http://www.ffavn.org/


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/01/12 19:14:54 -0700.





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