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
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.
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.