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Category: Welcoming Week

Hillsborough Becomes the First Welcoming County in Florida

Keiron Bone Dormegnie | September 17, 2015

Guest post by Janet Blair, Community Liaison, Refugee Services, Florida Department of Children & Families   

Welcoming Tampa--university students and refugee youth

This year’s Welcoming Week event in Tampa Bay will be a celebration on many levels.

We will be celebrating the historic vote by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners to officially become a Welcoming County under the umbrella of Welcoming America.

We will also be celebrating a growing partnership between the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force and the University of South Florida.

And most importantly, we will be celebrating the wonderful cultural diversity of our community and the contributions made by newly arriving refugee and immigrant families.

The Tampa celebration Stronger Together: A Cultural Festival will be held on a university campus for the first time and will bring together refugees, students, immigrants, faculty, and others from the community to converse, enjoy cultural performances, and make connections.

The Tampa celebration Stronger Together: A Cultural Festival will be held on a university campus for the first time and will bring together refugees, students, immigrants, faculty, and others from the community to converse, enjoy cultural performances, and make connections.

Welcoming Tampa-USF student and refugee youthRefugees and immigrants will have the opportunity to take campus tours, enjoy student performances, and learn about ongoing campus activities and organizations.

Students, faculty, and community members will have the opportunity to learn Cuban dance, get henna tattoos, take a mock citizenship test, and sign up for volunteer/internship opportunities with refugee/immigrant serving organizations.

All participants will have the opportunity to create Welcome Cards, which will be created in a variety of languages at the festival and placed by resettlement agencies in the homes of newly arriving refugees. Through this, the spirit of Welcoming Week will be felt long after the event is over.

The focus of this event is engagement, and we hope to see its impact continue long after this week of official welcoming is over. We hope to see it on the individual level through relationships developed between diverse individuals and to see it on a systemic level through the mutually beneficial partnerships that strengthen through collaborations on projects such as Welcoming Week.


Janet Blair is currently a Community Liaison for Refugee Services at the Florida Department of Children and Families in the Tampa Bay area. She has held this position since 2009 and has worked with refugee and immigrant populations in a variety of positions since 2001. In her current position, Janet facilitates the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, which brings together national, state and local organizations with the mission of helping refugees settle, integrate and thrive in our community.  In addition, Janet also serves on several local boards/community groups including the Tampa Bay Refugee Gardens Advisory Board, the Hillsborough Human Rights Council and the Pinellas County Schools ESOL Advisory Board.

 

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Welcoming Week: A Reflection on America’s “Golden Door”

Keiron Bone Dormegnie | September 15, 2015

Guest post by Steve Tobocman, Director of Global Detroit

Welcomer_Detroit08As the grandson of Jewish grandparents who fled Poland in the early 20th Century only to have all of their remaining family perish in the Holocaust, I grew up with a strong belief in the United States as the world’s haven for those fleeing persecution, oppression, and tyranny. I remember learning the powerful words of Emma Lazarus that are inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty during my temple’s Sunday School classes:

From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome . . . ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

The gripping pictures of a lifeless Syrian boy — approximately the same age and dress as my own two-year-old son Adiv — on a Turkish shore last week is enough to shock even the busiest American parent. Considering that the UN High Commission on Refugees has now registered over 4 million Syrian refugees and some 2,500 refugees have perished at sea trying to escape the conflict, the humanitarian issues facing the current crisis are truly catastrophic.

This week marks the fourth annual National Welcoming Week, during which communities all across America will celebrate the nation’s welcoming nature and the contributions that immigrants and refugees have made to our communities. The week’s events bring immigrants and refugees together with their neighbors in a spirit of unity.

Given the gripping headlines about the Syrian refugee crisis, this year’s Welcoming Week should provide ample opportunity for Americans to reflect on how our region could play a pivotal role in responding to the crisis and how our response would impact our local communities. This past May, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled “Let Syrians Settle Detroit,” noting that Metro Detroit’s “vibrant and successful” Arab-American community could help make our region more welcoming than others for resettling Syrians. Specifically, the editorial commented that, “From its original Native Americans to the Great Migration of Southern blacks to the infusion of Hispanic and Arab immigrants, Detroit has been a melting pot of religions, ethnicities and cultures.” Welcoming can be the difference maker in successful refugee resettlement and integration.

The reality is that refugee resettlement in communities across the nation would provide specific and tangible economic benefits to the local communities that serve as the new home for suffering families. A recent economic impact study on refugee resettlement efforts in Greater Cleveland concluded that the resettlement of some 4,500 refugees from 2000-2012 in the Cleveland metro area created $48 million in economic activity and 650 jobs in 2012 alone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has grabbed international headlines and praise for her leadership in pledging to accept as many as 800,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. In addition to the deep humanitarian significance for Germany to define itself as a safe harbor for refugees, observers have been quick and correct to point out that her actions are motivated also by economic self-interest. With declining birth rates and a rapidly-aging workforce—conditions that plague Detroit, Cleveland, the Midwest, and many American communities—Syrian refugees  represent an opportunity to inject new labor and energy into Germany’s economy. Merkel is planning for Germany’s long-term economic prosperity.

Midwesterners and Americans need to look no farther than the Minneapolis/St. Paul region to realize that serving as a hub for refugee resettlement can strengthen our economy and secure our long-term prosperity. Home to tens of thousands of Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese and other ethnic residents—most of whom can trace refugee resettlement histories as part of their community’s migration story—the Twin Cities possesses one of the fastest-growing economies and highest per capita incomes in the Midwest.

No doubt there are complex geo-political issues that need to be carefully considered in resolving the Syrian, other Middle Eastern, and African refugee crises, but one aspect that should not be in dispute is the local economic benefits to economies like Metro Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Germany. Refugees bring new energy, resourcefulness, and an eagerness to pursue freedom and opportunity. It’s the same recipe that brought my grandparents to Detroit and millions of others’ families to America.

This Welcoming Week let us celebrate those contributions and resolve to welcome the world’s newest “tempest-tost.”


Steve Tobocman spearheads Global Detroit, a regional economic revitalization strategy for the Detroit area focused on immigration. Global Detroit has leveraged more than $7 million in philanthropic and government funding into innovative programs in micro-entrepreneurship, welcoming, international student retention, skilled immigrant integration, integration services, professional connector programs, and a number of other initiatives. Global Detroit has served as the foundation for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Michigan Office for New Americans. 

In addition to leading Global Detroit, Steve has played the leadership role in creating, growing, and launching the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network at Welcoming America. This first-of-its-kind, ten-state regional network of local immigrant economic development initiatives is helping to make the Rust Belt a leader in immigrant innovation.

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Welcoming Week Celebrated During Historic Moment for Europe and US on Migration

Keiron Bone Dormegnie | September 10, 2015

As Europe and the US debate migration, communities small and large, rural and urban, are moving full steam ahead to welcome immigrants and expand prosperity during National Welcoming Week September 12th to 20th. Over 200 events in 33 states will honor immigrant contributions, build bridges among diverse local residents, and spur local policy on inclusion.

“Despite the divisive rhetoric of a few, this week is further evidence of the overwhelming desire of our country to be welcoming to New Americans. We are inspired by the growing global movement of welcomers and the continued momentum of civic leaders in the U.S. who recognize that our communities are stronger and more prosperous when they are welcoming,”said Welcoming America Executive Director David Lubell.

The 4th annual National Welcoming Week will include more partners, states, and events across the country than ever before. Over 250 organizations have partnered with Welcoming America this year to host more than 200 events in 33 states.

These events build on welcoming initiatives supported throughout the year by a rapidly growing number of local governments, civic organizations and business groups. For example, 59 local governments have now joined Welcoming America to advance immigrant-friendly policy. Last year, Nashville announced the creation of a Mayor’s Office of New Americans and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the City of Atlanta would implement a comprehensive plan to foster a welcoming environment through the Welcoming Atlanta initiative. Similar plans are now being implemented in places like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dayton, Ohio, whose plan was launched several years ago, is now beginning to see tangible economic benefits as a result of its welcoming efforts.

Such efforts have been recognized as a national model by the newly-created White House Taskforce on New Americans, a federal government effort tasked with better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities and which will provide further support to the burgeoning welcoming communities movement.

Welcoming Week also comes ahead of the Papal visit to the U.S., where the Pope is expected to speak to Congress and the American public about the need to be more welcoming toward immigrants.

From soccer tournaments to business tours and educational events, naturalization ceremonies to cultural displays of art, music, and dance, National Welcoming Week is expected to bring together thousands of people nationally: people who, like the majority of Americans, see immigrants as a source of strength and are embracing their new neighbors, both immigrant and U.S.-born.

Event Highlights

News Highlights

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#WelcomingWeek Staff Picks

Keiron Bone Dormegnie | August 20, 2015

Forget the headlines; here's what American communities really think about immigrants. From New Hampshire to Kentucky, Oregon to Georgia, communities gear up to celebrate #WelcomingWeek. And from community potlucks to soccer in the streets, New Americans are being welcomed by their neighbors. Check out some of these great events happening around the country chosen by Welcoming America staff  including why they think it's a great #WelcomingWeek event: 

xCultural Passport to PHL Week - Philadelphia, PA

Hosted by: Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs "This schedule of events is truly representative of the welcoming spirit and is incredibly diverse, with offerings surely to pique anyone's interest. Welcoming America truly applauds MOIMA for its massive effort to offer an amazing slate of events every Welcoming Week!"

Welcoming Week Potluck - Lexington, KY

Hosted by: Kentucky Refugee Ministries "It shows that neighbors can do simple things - like coming together to break bread across difference - in order to welcome new refugees and immigrants into the community."

Community Picnic - Grand Forks, ND

Hosted by: Global Friends Coalition "Welcoming Week is all about diverse communities coming together, and food, music, games, and conversation are all great ways for community members to bond."

Welcoming Michigan Statewide Convening - Warren, MI

Hosted by: Welcoming Michigan "It's exciting to see a whole state coming together for a Welcoming Week event!"

Momo Monday - North Olmsted, OH

Hosted by: US Together "I love the idea of coming together around the shared language of food. Plus who doesn't want Nepali dumplings?!"

Beaverton Night Market - Beaverton, OR

Hosted by: City of Beaverton’s Diversity Advisory Board "They are embodying the spirit of welcoming by trying something new in their community, and the evening event has all the hallmarks of smart design--it's after hours for most people, it has lots of positive economic and cultural objectives, and it gets people out and about in contact with each other. Exciting!"

Soccer in the Streets - Atlanta, GA

Hosted by: Welcoming Atlanta, At lanta Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs "I love the common language of sports and soccer is as universal as you get. Especially when you're playing in the heart of a community as opposed to at a stadium."

Cultural Greetings & Hospitality - Jacksonville, FL

Hosted by: Jacksonville Refugee Community Services "A learned kind word or a hospitable gesture is sometimes all it takes to make anyone feel welcome. Adding fashion and ritualized coffee (all under an umbrella of cultural awareness)--that's a Saturday afternoon event that works for me!"

Mission Impact Council Community Summit - St. Paul, MN

Hosted by: YMCA Twin Cities' Mission Impact Council "It is a targeted youth call to action. In reflecting on how we could all be more 'welcoming' it truly starts with the youth that will have the capacity to carry this for generations in our fast changing country.This events looks at many barriers from a holistic approach to bridge the gap. I am all about the young people and empowering them no matter what you background is or your circumstances are. Bringing them together fosters understanding and tolerance for all!"

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National Welcoming Week kicks off today!

Keiron Bone Dormegnie | September 15, 2013

Find events in your community at www.welcomingweek.org

During National Welcoming Week, Welcoming America and its partners across the country will bring together immigrants and U.S.-born community members in a spirit of unity through service projects and other events.  This year, close to 80 events are planned in 22 states, and more than 5,600 people are expected to participate. We encourage you to join the events in your area – visit www.welcomingweek.org to see what projects are happening in your backyard. Also, we want to hear from you as you participate in your local Welcoming Week event – Tweet us at @WelcomingUSA or tag us in your Facebook post @WelcomingAmerica to let us know what’s going on (don’t forget to add hashtag #welcomingweek to your post). If you cannot come out to a National Welcoming Week event, you can still participate through our photo action. Facebook or Tweet us a photo answering the question, "Why do you value a welcoming community?"  See an example below:

We also want to give a special shout-out to BB&T and One Region Atlanta, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, for their sponsorship of National Welcoming Week.  Their generous support has made our event possible.  We are excited to work with you to build stronger communities during National Welcoming Week!

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