‘We teach people how to North Hill’: The making and continual re-making of Akron’s international district

By Sean Blevins A light drizzle began to fall and steam was starting to rise through the numerous cracks in the unlevel sidewalks, but business went on as usual in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.  The people roaming the narrow streets of Akron’s “international district” on the afternoon of March 9 cracked open their umbrellas and continued about their day, largely undeterred by the musty weather. Unfavorable weather typically leads to less revenue for businesses because people are less willing to go out, but customers kept pouring into the ethnic pop-up shops and grocery stores where they were buying everything from...

From jeweler to restaurant owner to head of arts and culture: The Deepak Gajmer story

By Jimmy Oswald Children scream joyfully, their voices filling the large room, an open area with a multi-colored padded floor and a small stage along the back wall inside the Himalayan Arts Language & Cultural Academy.  “It’s the last day before spring break,” Deepak Gajmer, the head of arts and culture at the academy, explains. “So, they are very excited.” The children’s play area sits empty while the children are in class at the Himalayan Arts Language & Cultural Academy. Photo by Jimmy Oswald.  Between 10 and 20 kids, most aged around 5 and 6 years old, run around the...

How one organization helps refugees get their citizenship

By Helena Sepulveda “When I moved here, I discovered that Akron was a refugee city, and I didn’t really know what that meant, " said Pastor Cary Duckett, a California native who is the executive director of the International Welcome Center. The center is a faith-based organization that works to assist refugees in becoming acclimated to their life in the United States.  "So I began to research… and I discovered that in Akron there are thousands of refugees… and they are all on a path to citizenship."Pastor cary duckett Love sign in North Hill International District. Photo by Grace Christopher....

Nepali refugees share their culture in Akron through food

Restaurants like Nepali Kitchen help add unique flavors to North Hill By Andrew Kuder Nepali Kitchen, Akron, Ohio. Photo by Andrew Kuder. Akron’s North Hill area is nicknamed “Akron’s International District.” It features restaurants, grocery stores and more businesses from Afghan, Nepali, Karen, Bhutanese, and Vietnamese refugees, among many other groups. A majority of these places are run by refugees, and they offer the chance for locals to connect with their cultures in fun and interesting ways. Right on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue is Nepali Kitchen, which employs refugees from Nepal. It’s the type of place many might not notice at...

Blazing a trail to literacy

A woman studying. Courtesy of Project Learn. Su Ya always knew that education was the key to a successful future. It was the one consistent thing in her turbulent life. Books became her source of solace throughout her 12 years living at a Thailand refugee camp. Ya attended school through the 11th grade before immigrating to the United States.  When she got to Ohio, Ya was determined to make something of herself. She even borrowed her brother’s GED textbooks to work towards completing her education. Ya found Project Learn while looking for local GED testing sites; however, they helped her...

Starting over in Akron

by Kelly Krabill Fazal Baryalai and his family look at pictures from their time in Afghanistan. They arrived in Akron two years ago on a Special Immigrant Visa. Photo by Kelly Krabill When Fazal Baryalai awoke on a Saturday morning in March after a late night driving Uber customers, his family was already downstairs. Shai tea, an Arabic drink served to visitors, was already in a pitcher on the coffee table waiting to be poured into ornately designed crystal glasses. As I sipped the warm drink on that snowy day in Akron, Zahida, Baryalai’s wife, slipped into the kitchen and...

‘My favorite thing is driving’: Afghan women embrace independence in Akron

By Catie Pusateri Tamana Ziar, 23, left Afghanistan with her family in July 2022, just weeks before the Taliban took control of her country. Photo courtesy of Tamana Ziar. Every year on March 21, Tamana Ziar and her extended family gather to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. They meet in Paghman, a town just outside Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, for picnics and games to celebrate the coming of spring.  Her family members would play soccer together, and her parents even join in volleyball games. Ziar and her sister had bicycles that they would ride, soaking up the sun...