Tag Archives: Culture

World Relief Akron welcomes refugees into the community

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Story by Lyndsey Schley

Volunteer Marissa Dove drove up to the North Hill house on a rainy morning. She volunteers with World Relief Akron, a local refugee agency, and had stopped to pick up a Bhutanese-Nepali family that had just arrived in the United States a few days prior.

The father, mother and two young boys were running late, like so many families with young kids. The youngest was crying. He had gotten sick overnight. They climbed into the SUV and Dove helped get him into the car seat. His mother rubbed his legs to comfort him as they drove downtown.

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Tactical Urbanism growing in Akron Communities

 

Akron2AkronJanesWalk
Story by Jason Segedy

 

You may have heard about the growing Akron2Akron movement, which organizes monthly walking tours of Akron neighborhoods, led by local residents.

The walks have attracted people of all ages and all backgrounds, and they have been a great way to connect with other people, to get to know your own neighborhood better, and to get to know another neighborhood that you may not be as familiar with.

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Airport pickup completes family’s journey from Nepal to Akron

 Rohit-airport_011Rohit Biswa (left) came to the U.S. in 2010 after more than 20 years in a Nepali refugee camp. He recently drove to the airport to pick up the remaining members of his immediate family, some of who had never flown on a plane before. (Photo: Dale Dong)

 

Story by Chris Miller –  Akronist

It’s been more than four years since Rohit Biswa’s seen his aunt, uncle and cousins. Like many of Akron’s between 500 and 600 newly resettled refugees each year, Biswa’s family has taken this journey in staggered groups over the past decade. The trip itself is an arduous one, 30 hours of flights stretched out over three days.

On a recent evening, Biswa and International Institute of Akron colleague and caseworker Eilis McCulloh hopped into a car with an Akronist photographer to pick up these remaining relatives and open up a brand new chapter of their lives.

The reunion began at Akron-Canton Regional Airport and continued into the evening, and Biswa’s family now can take comfort that they’re in Akron together as a complete unit for the first time, with much more freedom and space than that found within the all-too-familiar confines of a refugee camp.

Biswa, who came to Akron in 2010, has made this drive dozens of times as part of his job for the International Institute, picking up arriving refugees, along with helping clients with interpretation and applying for benefits, among other tasks. He also is heavily involved in the community, serving as a youth pastor at Akron Bhutanese Assembly in the North Hill neighborhood.

 Rohit-airport_2Between 500 and 600 refugees resettle in Akron each year. (Photo: Dale Dong)

 

The International Institute makes around three pickups a week to this airport, 150 a year, to help begin the resettlement period for refugees, which usually lasts 90 days. Once these new residents become acclimated, the agency offers employment placement services for up to five years, says McCullough.

Twenty years in a refugee camp

Before his resettlement, all Biswa knew was life in a refugee camp, where he spent more than 20 years — including his childhood, and even into high school and early adulthood. He and his wife married in the refugee camp while teenagers. He never thought he’d make it the U.S., a fabled land of golden opportunity and bustling and crammed big cities.

“We never thought we’d get a chance to go,” he says.

There are more than 40,000 Nepali refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which adds that poverty, malnutrition and overcrowding plague the camps throughout Southeast Asia.

As Biswa pulls into the airport parking lot, he admits that he asked his other family members in Akron to meet the arriving relatives later in the evening, but they came to the airport in a sizable group because they were too anxious to wait. They want to greet the family members as soon as they step off the plane.

 Rohit-airport_06(Photo: Dale Dong)

 

“Today we have many people that are going to see them at the airport,” Biswa says. So the family reunion starts earlier than planned. And that’s why his brother is bringing a van.

Like many Bhutanese-Nepali families, Biswa’s shares resources among extended families, with many generations living together and caring for one another. This helps provide a safety net for newly resettled family members, many with houses already waiting for them.

There are 4,000 Bhutanese-Nepalis in Akron, and this sharing nature has translated into neighborhood transformation, like local gardens, new businesses and more community minded activities, along with food, art and culture.

Another common thread among Akron’s Bhutanese-Nepali population is their thankfulness for the guidance and resources provided by the International Institute of Akron, which is a critical link to the city for these and many other refugees and immigrants.

While some populations are new in North Hill, immigration in this neighborhood is not. McCulloh, a case manager at the International Institute, points out that a local landlord, whose parents were Italian immigrants, recently said, “It’s like returning to the roots of the neighborhood with that sense of family and community all over again, but with a different population.”

Rohit-airport_5(Photo: Dale Dong)

 

A three-day endeavor

The journey from Nepal to Akron usually requires 30 hours of travel over three days, passing through multiple countries and continents. After stepping off the plane, Biswa’s uncle says that he was scared traveling for 26 hours, it being his first time riding an airplane.

Biswa remembers when he came to Akron in 2010. “After six months, I had a hard time understanding doctors and other different types of people,” he says. He took English as Second Language (ESL) classes, and sought the help of the International Institute.

Biswa says there are some things he misses from Nepal, like cultural festivals and friends who were left behind.

And although he’s thankful for the new life and opportunity living in Akron provides, Biswa plans to eventually visit Nepal with his children — his daughter, 5, and his son, 2 — so they can see a piece of his history. “I’d like to take them back to visit,” he says. “They can learn something from there.”

For more information, visit www.iiakron.org, or visit the agency’s Facebook and Twitteraccounts.

Maps to Help You Understand Akron’s Neighborhoods – Urban Places

Story By Jason Segedy

TreeMy street, located in Akron’s west-side Wallhaven neighborhood

 

Akron: A City of Neighborhoods

I have written before about the importance of rejecting false choices when it comes to discussing our places.

Most urban places are large and diverse enough that they cannot be easily pigeonholed or painted with an overly broad-brush.

Is Akron getting better or getting worse?  The answer, of course, is “both”, or “neither”, or “it depends”.  And what it depends upon is which neighborhoods we are talking about.

Akron, like all larger cities, is full of a wondrous array of people, places, and things. It is at the neighborhood level that its diversity becomes most apparent.

The great American writer E.B. White penned one of my favorite descriptions of the way that the ultimate city (New York) functions as a series of small places, rather than as one large place:

The oft-quoted thumbnail sketch of New York is, of course: “It’s a wonderful place, but I’d hate to live there.”  I have an idea that people from villages and small towns, people accustomed to the convenience and friendliness of neighborhood over-the-fence living, are unaware that life in New York follows the neighborhood pattern. The city is literally a composite of tens of thousands of tiny neighborhood units…Each area is a city within a city within a city…So complete is each neighborhood, and so strong is the sense of neighborhood, that many a New Yorker spends a lifetime within the confines of an area smaller than a country village. Let him walk two blocks from his corner and he is in a strange land and will feel uneasy till he gets back.

E.B. White – Here Is New York

While Akron is far smaller than New York, its neighborhoods still contain considerable variety in terms of history, culture, socioeconomic characteristics, and the built environment.

The city contains neighborhoods that were built in the 1920s, where every fourth house today is vacant, and the median sales price is below $50,000; and it contains neighborhoods where houses built during that same time period regularly sell for $500,000.

The city is home to neighborhoods where upwards of 75% of the residents are college-educated, and it contains other neighborhoods where less than 50% of the residents have graduated from high school.

My purpose in writing this post is to give the reader a sense of the rich cultural and socioeconomic diversity that can be found here.

In the first section of the post, I give a general overview of Akron’s 20 primary neighborhoods, dividing them into seven general categories.

In the second section of the post, I present a variety of socio-economic data for 210 secondary neighborhoods, in order to illustrate what our neighborhoods look like and who lives in them.

PART I:  SEVEN TYPES OF NEIGHBORHOODS

“Urban Core” Neighborhoods

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Two neighborhoods (Downtown and University Park) – form the urban core of the city.  Both of these neighborhoods are located on or near the original site of the City of Akron, which was established in 1825, and expanded primarily toward the south and east until around 1890.

Today, these neighborhoods form the commercial, cultural, and government center of the city.  They have gone through a dramatic transformation over the past 60 years, as many of the original buildings and houses have been torn down and much of the street grid has been altered beyond recognition.

“Formerly Independent Place” Neighborhoods

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Three neighborhoods (Middlebury, Kenmore, and Ellet) once existed as independent cities and towns.  Middlebury, the oldest of the three, was established in 1822, and actually predates Akron itself.  It was annexed by the City of Akron in 1872.  Today it suffers from widespread vacancy, and is one of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the city.

Kenmore and Ellet developed as outlying “streetcar suburbs” and were both annexed by the City of Akron in 1929.  They were both settled heavily by Appalachian whites (primarily from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee) that moved to the city to work in the rubber and tire industry.

Both neighborhoods maintain a strong identity up through the present day, and when residents are asked where they live by someone from out of town, they are as likely to reply “Kenmore” or “Ellet” as they are to say “Akron”.

To read the rest of this story go to:  January 9, 2015 post in  Notes from the Underground   thestile1972.tumblr.com/   or Follow Jason Segedy on
Twitter thestile1972