CLEVELAND — Cleveland has always been a blanket of hope and a sign of a new start for refugees from all over the world fleeing their homes in search of a better life. Monday is World Refugee Day, and Global Cleveland, an organization that helps welcome international newcomers and connects them to social and economic opportunities, said it’s important to recognize this day and the positive impact refugees have on Cleveland.
“It's important because it speaks to the soul of who Cleveland is,” said Joe Cimperman, president of Global Cleveland. For well over a century and a half, going back over 150 years, Cleveland has been welcoming people from all over the world who have been victims of famine, of genocide, of civil war, of oppression, of religious and political oppression, all the things that make people have to leave their home.”
Cimperman says Cleveland’s culture has benefited from refugees. Often many didn’t want to leave their families behind, their homes, their livelihoods, all of which they worked hard to build.
“Many of them were living incredible lives. We only need to look to our sisters and brothers from Ukraine who were living a very high-quality, happy way of life. But, if you have to choose between where you're living and life or death, people will choose life and then they'll move," Cimperman said.
New research fromNew American Economy shows that in Northeast Ohio, 8,300 immigrant entrepreneurs generated $204.8 million in business income for Northeast Ohio.
Home to three resettlement agencies, Cleveland has always been considered a safe place for refugees. It’s this reputation as being a welcoming place that keeps people coming. Most recently, Cleveland was supposed to get 400 people from Afghanistan. Cimperman says that the official number is closer to 1,000, and unofficially, it’s closer to 2,000.
There are ways residents of Northeast Ohio can do their part to help refugees resettle and restart. Cimperman says there are numerous volunteer opportunities that match someone's skills and talent. Some of the current ways volunteers are helping refugees include:
- Teaching kids how to read at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomer Academy
- If you own a business, hiring somebody
- If you have an extra room or apartment, rent it to someone in need
- Taking people to cultural institutions around Cleveland, like the museum and the Metroparks
- Taking people on RTA buses, showing them how to transfer, where to get on and off
Clickhere to find out ways you can help your refugee neighbors.
Global Cleveland created a map that shows immigrant-owned restaurants in the Cleveland area.
“Any kind of kindness we can offer here in northeast Ohio is immeasurable in terms of how we build our community and how we give our kids something," Cimperman said.
Watch this report from March 2022 below:
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