‘This makes a difference in your life’

By Morgan McGrath Chelsae Poelking has been teaching English as a second language for the past two years, and every Tuesday night, she can be found in an Akron Crossings classroom, laughing with students as they collectively crack some jokes.  “God made all people valuable,” she said. “Everyone is valuable in his eyes, no matter where you’re from, or what you’ve been through. That’s why we want to love them [refugees] and help them have the best chance they have.” Poelking first fell in love with volunteering during a trip down south to Clarkston, Georgia, just a 20-minute drive outside...

Overcoming barriers at Akron Crossings

By Morgan McGrath Akron Crossings is in North Hill, tucked among a long stretch of residential areas. Bena Paisley is the founder of this non-profit, community-centric organization, and her central goal is to help refugees adjust to the United States through the guidance of Christianity.  “I encourage them [refugees] to be patient with themselves, and that they really can do this, ‘cuz it’s overwhelming sometimes,” she said.  After speaking with local residents in North Hill, Paisley realized they all mentioned their need to overcome language barriers.  “I was a staff member at a church, and we started Crossings as a...

Home, job, transportation-and mindfulness

By Morgan McGrath "Do yourself a favor and do others a favor by being your best self,” said Edlyn McGarity Edlyn McGarity, a “Mindfulness Coach,” Ted Talk speaker, author, actress, and employee at Akron’s International Welcome Center. Photo courtesy of Edlyn McGarity.   A world traveler and Indian immigrant, McGarity is currently employed as the Community Coordinator for Akron’s International Welcome Center, or IWC.  Not only that, but she’s also a published author of a #1 bestselling Amazon book titled “Redefine Your Success Metrics.”  She once gave a TedTalk speech called “Taking Charge of Your Destiny,” and on top of...

Overcoming obstacles in refugee healthcare

By Alencia Lang Sujata Burgess commutes between the Akron and Cleveland locations of the International Community Health Center (ICHC). When asked what her responsibilities included, she said “everything” with a light laugh. As the director of operations, she is behind all of the administrative work for the ICHC, including overseeing safety procedures, ordering medical supplies, and hiring and training new staff. The job is full of problem solving. She said she never knows what she is going to walk into each day. ICHC located at E 370 Market St. Akron, OH. Photo by Alencia Lang. After earning a master’s degree...

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...

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...