Cleveland has long welcomed immigrants from a
variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. But recently, Cleveland
has welcomed a very special group of people, not of immigrants but
refugees fleeing violence and persecution from various Asian countries
like Myanmar and Bhutan. Lakewood, in particular, has been an
important staging ground for helping these refugees get accustomed to
life in the United States.
Because these refugees often have very limited knowledge of the
English language, they cannot communicate their needs. Asian Services
in Action, Inc. (ASIA), a non-profit agency with offices in Cleveland
and Akron, helps these refugees with everything from the simplest
question, like how to get a library card, to the most complicated
legal and medical issues. Even though ASIA originally worked with
refugee communities from Asian countries, the agency turns no one away
and so now also works with refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria,
Somalia, Sudan, and Guatemala.
One of ASIA’s services is a citizenship workshop. Volunteers work
one-on-one or in small groups with refugees, helping them with their
reading, writing, and interviewing skills. In these workshops,
refugees who already have green cards but have limited English ability
get extra help preparing for the citizenship test.
Kitty Leung, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Services at ASIA,
runs a long list of programs, all in need of volunteers. At Emerson
Elementary School, in Lakewood, Leung directs and teaches in an
afterschool tutoring program for refugee children in grades 2-12. One
of the greatest challenges for these children, who attend school in
both Cleveland and Lakewood, is that they are given homework that is
much above their English language capability and cannot ask their
parents, who often have even more limited English ability, for help.
Furthermore, refugee children arrive with varying levels of education
from their home countries.
At Emerson afterschool program, volunteers work with these students
twice a week, helping them with homework that ranges from second-grade
reading journals to high-school chemistry and algebra assignments.
Along with homework help, these students also receive drug-prevention
education and time management counseling. It typically takes a child
5-7 years to acquire fluency in a second language but for Leung,
success is having refugee children integrated with their mainstream
peers, involved in their schools’ extracurricular programs and happy.
During the summers, Leung also runs a summer school for refugee
children in kindergarten-12th grade. This program meets at Emerson
Elementary School, Monday-Friday, for six weeks and helps the students
retain and build upon what they learned during the school year.
Volunteers work with staff in devising lesson plans, teaching classes,
working with students one-on-one and in small groups. Volunteers often
rave about their summer experiences. Liam Oznowich, a college student
who taught playwriting to the high school students, says, “Not only
did I love getting to know each of the students and watching their
English reading and writing improve, but I also gained more confidence
in my own teaching abilities. It was a pleasure to teach this class
because the students were all engaged and genuinely interested in what
we were learning, which made my own teaching experience so much more
rewarding and memorable."
ASIA also offers many services for the adults in the refugee
communities. Leung and her program assistant run a parenting program
for the Burmese, Karen, Kareni, and Ch’in populations. Meeting at
either Faith Presbyterian Church or Madison Library, these parents are
introduced to American culture, so that they are aware of the
influences their children face. They are taught how to talk with their
children about drugs, how to set boundaries, and other parenting
questions that arise from being apart from the mainstream community.
In addition, because many of these refugees come from unstable home
countries, Leung holds a women-only group to address issues of sexual
or domestic violence. She is hoping to get volunteers who are open to
working with racial and religious diversity to help organize sewing or
knitting circles with these women-only groups as they work through
their experiences and move forward. Leung is also in need of sewing
machines and any supplies, from fabric and yarn to knitting needles
ASIA is always looking for volunteers in their wide range of
programs. Whether you’re interested in healthcare, legal services,
teaching, women’s issues, or even sharing a skill or trade, ASIA would
love to share your expertise. If you are interested in volunteering
with ASIA or donating any supplies, please contact Kitty Leung, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Marketplace Q & A by Mindy Xiong
Q: My husband and I do not work together in making decisions related
to our family and he seems disinterested in doing so.? What should I
A: Though our culture may support the role of one of the spouses in a
marriage as the primary decisionmaker or leader of the family,
husbands and wives who come together to work on a decision both open
up the lines of communication and are able to respect each other’s
perspectives and roles in the partnership. Some decisions will be made
by one spouse and some will be made by the other spouse, though there
may be times when compromise, or coming to a mutual concession that
involves the desires of both of the people, may be necessary.
We had talked about healthy and unhealthy communication in our last
article and having healthy communication patterns is optimal. If you
feel that you are able to discuss the matter safely, perhaps you can
explain your position and begin the conversation using the “I feel”
"I feel (feeling or emotion) when (type of behavior) because
For example: “I feel confused when you do not talk to me about making
decisions about our family because it seems that you are not
interested in our family.”
The “I feel” model helps reduce tension and conflict by keeping us
from making direct accusations without stating our reason (for
example, “You make me feel confused!” “You are irresponsible and not
helpful at all!”). Once you start the conversation with your husband
or wife, allow him/her to speak without interruptions and aim to
listen. Remember also that he/she may need some practice with healthy
communication if they have not learned how to do so.
Another suggestion would be to bring in a trusted person as a mediator
– a neutral party who is able to facilitate the conversation between
you and your husband and will remain neutral. It may be very difficult
to find a mediator, though, and people may not want to share their
difficulties within the community.You can also find professional
people who are also trained in providing counseling for marriage who
are required by their profession to protect their clients’
confidentiality. If you are interested in this, please send an email
If these do not work or you feel that starting the conversation is
making your spouse even angrier or the situation become dangerous, you
may need to seek additional professional assistance. Again, you can
email me for some options.
NEED HELP? If you need help because you believe you are in an abusive
or unhealthy relationship, you can call this number for more
information: (216) 369-7616.
GOT A QUESTION?? Submit yours here at email@example.com!