Thursday, May 19, 2016

International Institute of Connecticut - A Visit and A Reminder Of The Greater Work Needing To Be Done Locally

Earlier this semester, a graduate student from from Sarah Lawrence College who was doing a capstone on relocated refugee youth stopped by my office to interview me about my work with Ubuntu Academy and to find out how she could infuse arts-based practices with a series of workshops at iiConn - International Institute of Connecticut. I knew her time was limited and I suggested she buy clay and allow the young people to sculpt narratives they wished to share so that she could better guide their English acquisition at the center. I'd forgotten about that conversation, but yesterday I met with iiConn's director, Claudia Conners, to discuss possible collaborations for the summer.

Claudia and I did a walk-n-talk around Bridgeport, then she returned me to the office to show me the clay figurines the young people created under the care of the graduate student. She heard that I had an influence on that project and wondered what my work has been with young people. It was a great conversation and the two of us brainstormed possible collaborations and partnerships for the future. Refugee relocations centers need so much: clothing, housewares, furniture, tutors, jobs for immigrants, and everyday assistance - all of which must come from altruism and kindness. As bad as public schools are, centers like theirs are totally underfunded. The fortunate few who arrive to the United States only have a few months to pay back the U.S. government for their relocation. Young people, because of schools, have the greatest shot for making it easier for the families to eventually land on their feet.

I stopped by iiConn in between meetings and was glad to connect with the director and share what we've been able to accomplish over the last few years. The young people I have been fortunate to work with are like those in Louisville and Syracuse - dedicated to achievement and a hope for new life.

I was touched to see the artwork, because I wasn't a part of the programming, but the creations were special to the new director at the center and she wanted to share them with me. It's nice to see the influence one has even when one isn't around for the actual work.

The afternoon stroll with Claudia inspired me to work harder and to think even more creatively about how my fortunes as an American citizen can benefit those who are arriving. I'm hoping the future will offer opportunities that will continue to be programs to replicate. Not bad for a Wednesday...but now it is time for Fairfield's commencements to take hold. Time to celebrate the graduates!

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