Rahim, a young man in his mid-20’s who escaped violence in Burkina Faso, was our first immigrant speaker during the September 2023 Cultural Connections fundraiser event. His message was delivered through a proxy as he felt compelled to accept a last-minute overtime opportunity at work. Long-time AMIS supporter Judy Charlick read his letter.
Rahim and wife Habibou are the parents of three children (the older two are still in Burkina Faso with her family). He arrived in America fluent in Arabic but unfamiliar with the English alphabetic system. Now in Cleveland, just short of two years, however, Rahim has made tremendous strides in speaking and reading English. Habibou is also progressing well, working with three tutors to learn to read, write, and speak English. The couple now reside in the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood of Cleveland Heights and their almost two-year-old daughter, Aisha Lara, the first American-born child in our AMIS extended family. Rahim has been working the night shift in a factory assembly line job since he and his wife obtained their work permits and social security numbers in June. He hopes to train to become a licensed plumber, and AMIS and Judy Charlick are working with him to accomplish this goal. This couple hopes to soon gain asylum status to begin the next steps toward obtaining Green Cards and, ultimately, citizenship.
Our second speaker, Claudia, spoke on behalf of herself and her husband Maikol, sharing how they had met on their journeys from Peru and Venezuela respectively. Now residing in a caringly appointed apartment in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood set up by their new neighbors, these parents of a lovely young daughter were married by the Very Rev. Tracy Lind in a lovely home wedding last May. In addition to helping ready their apartment, neighbors have donated a bike to Maikol and helped him secure a job at a nearby store to which he rides it.
One of three brothers who had been enslaved in their former homeland of Mauritania was our third speaker, Abdoulaye. In Cleveland only since June, AMIS has assisted with them by securing an apartment, delivering food from the Forest Hill Presbyterian Church’s food pantry, and lining up odd jobs. Other friends and partner organizations have provided furniture and spending money as well as secured utilities. Although their native language is Fulani, they also speak French, making their apartment a good transition spot due to the fact that their upstairs neighbor, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is also French speaking. (any more about their background??)
Our final speaker, Carolina, also from Peru, spoke on behalf of her family who was forced to leave their former homeland by drug cartels who were angered that her husband, a customs officer, refused to “look the other way” to allow drug shipments to pass through the port. Under threat of death, they arrived in Cleveland in December 2022 and are living at the Nehemiah Mission. AMIS has supported them with housing assistance, bus passes, and deliveries of food from the Forest Hill Presbyterian Church’s food pantry twice each month. Now fluent in English, Carolina and her husband both have recently obtained their work permits and Refuge Response has hired her to work as a full-time Navigator assisting Spanish-speaking refugees. Her husband has been working landscaping jobs. AMIS solicited bike donations from surrounding neighbors for all four family members so that they can enjoy their proximity to Edgewater Park