Building communities across cultures

By Anthony Elder Cindy Mathias, member of Grace Church and volunteer for the International Welcome Center, noticed two newcomers –– both a bit nervous, even hesitant –– before a Sunday service in 2018. Those unfamiliar faces belonged to Congolese refugees, Jean and Joseph, both new to the United States, struggling to various degrees to communicate. Upon realizing their nationality, Mathias jumped to greet the young men. The Democratic Republic of Congo, once controlled by France, meant that the men surely knew some level of French (the country’s official language despite decades of independence). Mathias, a retired French teacher from Firestone...

‘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...

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...