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Benefit dinner for refugees

November 10, 2011

By David Edwards

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in collaboration with CSU’s Hillel and Latinos Unidos will host a benefit dinner for the International Services Center (ISC) in the Student Center Ballroom from 6 to 8 p.m. The ISC is a refugee resettlement center located in downtown Cleveland.

According to Mona Jamal, the secretary of MSA, the purpose of this event is to bring awareness to the Cleveland community about the refugees here and also to collect needed donation items for the refugees.

New refugees face many difficulties when they come to the U.S., explained Faten Odeh, the volunteer coordinator of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

“The people have very little from where they come,” Odeh said. “They lived in refugee camps most of their lives.”

For many refugees, the process of assimilating into a new culture can be challenging.

“There is a big learning curve; many of our refugees have been living in refugee camps for 18 to 20 years,” said Traci Gilley, community relations specialist.

Odeh said she heard a story about a refugee who used a toothbrush to scrub the floor.

“I couldn’t imagine not having a country,” Jamal said. “We take our freedom and liberty for granted.”

Gilley said that the refugees are good for the community because of what they have endured in the lives.

“They have a natural ability to thrive because they already dealt with other hardships,” Gilley said. “That is why they are engaged—they know how to persevere.”

Odeh explained that the ISC teaches the refugees lifestyle skills every week, including riding the RTA, bike safety, working in an office environment, financial management and basic computer skills such as email.

ISC also helps the refugees find jobs. One project in particular is a partnership with the International Safety Apparel. In this project, the refugees work in factories in learning how to sew.

Gilley said that these jobs are good because they do not require a lot of talking.

She also pointed out that sometimes the refugees need help changing their dietary habits.

“The longer you are in a camp, the less food,” Gilley said. “People have to learn about nutrition and exercise.”

Many of the refugees come from countries like Nepal, Iraq, Ukraine, Thailand and Somalia.

“A lot of these refugees come from warm weather,” Odeh said. “It is harder for them to get used to the cold.”

Gilley said that her organization will have resettled 150 refugees last year and between 175 to 200 refugees this year.

“I think people are not aware that there are refugees in Cleveland,” Gilley said. “This is a humanitarian effort; we are dealing with people in dire circumstances, something that is important to help our fellow man.”

Aden Muskin, president of Hillel, said that her organization has been eager to work with MSA.

“More recently Jews have been exiled from countries in Africa and the Middle East, much like the refugees we are now helping,” Muskin said. “When these Jews fled as refugees to democratic countries such as America and Israel, they were taken in with open arms.”
The event will collect donations of various household items and toiletries, such as shampoo and clothes.

There will also be a raffle giveaway. The prizes will include holiday entertainment, shopping cards, and a flip camera.

After the speech there will be an opportunity for students to learn about internships.
Students interested in grant writing, media, human resources, education and similar academic interests are encouraged to attend.

According to Mona, this is not the first fundraising event for the MSA.
The last fundraising event the MSA hosted raised money to support clean water wells in Somalia.