Monday, September 12, 2016

CU Immigration Forum Announces the 2016 recipients of the 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards

CU Immigration Forum Finalizes the 2016 recipients of the
3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards


The CU Immigration Forum is pleased to announce the 2016 recipients of the 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards. This year's award ceremony and celebration will take place on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 1pm-4pm at the Urbana Free Library (in Lewis Auditorium), 210 W. Green Street in Urbana, Illinois.

Come celebrate the diversity of cultures that make up our community with an afternoon of music, food and art projects for children and special guests. This is a Welcoming Week event, part of a national week that brings together immigrants and U.S. born residents in a spirit of unity. We will also recognize the winners of the Immigrant Friendly Awards which are given to individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in Champaign County. This year's winners include Cristina Lucio, Namsoo Hyong, Ahh Ha Ho, World Harvest International Food, Avicenna Community Health Center, and Urbana School District 116's Bilingual and Multicultural Program. Below you will find more information about this year's award recipients.

“We believe Champaign-Urbana is strongest when everyone feels welcome and neighbors work together to make our community an even better place to live,” said Megan Flowers, Secretary Officer of the CU Immigration Forum. “We participate in Welcoming Week to honor the many contributions immigrants have made to Champaign-Urbana and to celebrate the values that unite us for a more vibrant, cohesive community.”

“These celebrations are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world,” said David Lubell, founder and executive director of Welcoming America. “Communities recognize that they are more vibrant and prosperous when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate. In events across the world this week, new and long-time residents are building bridges and make their communities stronger.”

This event is free and open to all. There will be activities for children throughout the afternoon. This event is cosponsored by CU Immigration Forum, University YMCA, City of Urbana, City of Champaign, Welcoming America, Champaign Public Library, and Urbana Free Library.

Program Schedule:
1pm-2pm: Get the Facts on Immigrants in Champaign County (a workshop for anyone interested in learning more) with Susan Ogwal
2pm-2:30pm: Socializing and refreshments
2:30pm-4pm: Awards Ceremony and musical performances by La Voz Universal (Mayan) and by a Congolese group.

The 2016 Immigrant Welcome Award Recipients:

Student Leadership Award: A student who has shown promise as an important leader in immigration issues, locally or beyond.

Cristina Lucio: For the past two summers Cristina Lucio has interned full time in Tucson, Arizona at the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, a family advocacy organization working to end migrant death and related suffering on the US-Mexico border. She documented missing persons reports through phone interviews and helped organize Colibrí's DNA program initiative. Along with immigrant rights activists, she actively participated in community organization meetings, political demonstrations, dropping off gallons of water in the Tucson desert in hopes that migrants would find them, and other volunteer opportunities all related to immigrant rights and racial justice. Locally, as the undergraduate intern of the Anthropology Department for the past two years, Cristina made it a priority to organize events meant to center and discuss sociopolitical issues that are often undermined on the UIUC campus, including Central American and Mexican migration and US immigration policies. Her senior research work also contributes to critical anthropological analysis of US-Mexico border issues. During spring 2016 she was part of a group of undergrads conducting ethnographical research on immigrant detention in the Midwest, in which we presented at the Ethnography of the University Initiative Student Conference.

Distinguished Service Award: An individual who has demonstrated long-term commitment to the local immigrant community.

Namsoo Hyong - Master Namsoo Hyong has been an active member in the community since 1980. He migrated to Champaign from Korea with very little knowledge of the culture and language to continue his brother's Taekwondo academy. Together, they created a system of non-competitive martial arts that is inclusive of all regardless of race, gender or age. He was also an active member of the Savoy Rotary Club and helped with community projects in the surrounding area. He plays a key role in the Korean Student Association by introducing them to the American culture through socialization with the diverse group of students in his academy. He is also the president of American Intangible Cultural Heritage, which seeks to document culturally significant activities and educate others.

Leadership Award: An individual who has been a strong leader in the immigrant community.

Anh Ha Ho - Ha Ho is the co-director of East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. Ha Ho has been a vital support to refugees and immigrants in Central Illinois for decades. Though she has served in many roles in our community, her most important contribution hasbeen as the co-director of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. Her co-director Deb Hlavna has said, “It’s incredible how much she plugs herself into the community, both in her work and in her volunteer work. She has such incredible passion for people." * Ha Ho’s work at ECIRMAC is very demanding. Because it is a financially-challenged multi-service organization, Ha Ho has often had to serve above and beyond in many different roles – as social worker, translator, transportation provider, medical advocate, parenting advisor and even as consultant on how to obtain housing, education or basic necessities.

In addition to leadership at ECIRMAC, Ha Ho has also been a French teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School, a translator at Carle Foundation Hospital, and a volunteer translator at Presence Covenant Medical Center and Christie Clinic. She also served as a Board member for the Urbana Free Library. It would be impossible to count the many lives that she has touched, and the many families she has helped through her work. Ha Ho’s own life prepared her for the challenge of serving others. She herself is a former refugee, born in Vietnam, and forced to face war and to flee her own country.

She understands first-hand the experience of living as an outsider and struggling to adjust to an unfamiliar culture. In addition to this profound affinity for others, Ha Ho brings an amazing facility with languages – fluency in English, Vietnamese, French and conversational ability in Spanish and German. “I know what it’s like to feel out of place and to just want to feel acceptance,” she has said. “I want to give people the help that I wish I had when I first moved here.” She brings her experience in a very personal way to all she serves tirelessly with enthusiasm and a smile.

Business Leadership Award: An immigrant owned business that contributes to the local economic development of CU or to the immigrant community through advocacy, donations or in-kind services.

World Harvest International Food (Mohammad Al-Heeti) - Mohammad Al-Heeti is a businessman who incorporates community as part of his business mission as stated on the website of one of his stores: "Our commitment to excellence extends beyond our store’s shelves. We understand the importance of a strong community, and we are dedicated to helping. We have worked to raise money for local schools, and given to causes promoting cultural understanding; disaster relief; as well as other causes important to our customers and staff." I know from personal experience, he generously donates both money and in-kind support to a wide variety of non-profits in our community. His personal engagement as a citizen is a model for all businesses. World Harvest was recognized for its role in the community in 2008, when it received the Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Award in Trade and Business!

Community Organization Award: A non-profit or community based organization, which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants.

Avicenna Community Health Center - As an interfaith and multicultural not for profit organization, Avicenna Community Health Center helps the uninsured and under-insured, which include those of immigrant status, with medical and social service needs. It's mission is to provide health care for the uninsured and under insured, engage in preventative health care through community health screenings, and promote health awareness through education and information dissemination. Since it's opening in 2009, Avicenna not only helps the community as a whole but also educates through their volunteer program. They have helped many from other countries of origin to receive medical services and connect them with other service providers and cultural communities in the CU area. These volunteers dedicate their Sunday, every week, to assist in keeping those in the community happy and healthy. Those served at the clinic include people from the Congolese, Hispanic, Iranian, Arabian, Indian, and other cultural communities. Avicenna takes great care in making sure no one is left behind that need health services.

Institutional Award: Local government or other large community institution, which has made significant changes to better serve the growing immigrant population.

Urbana School District 116, Bilingual & Multicultural Programs - This award recognizes Urbana School District # 116 (USD 116) for its work with immigrant students and their parents.

We particularly lift up the work of the Bilingual and Bicultural Programs under the leadership of Joseph Wiemelt, Director, and Guadalupe Ricconi, assistant director of Equity and Student Learning; Bilingual and Multicultural Programs, and Lucia Maldonado, Latino Parent Liaison. Our commendation extends to all the teachers and staff working with immigrant families. We commend the leadership of Superintendent Donald Owen and the commitment of USD 116 Board of Education.

Support for new English learners extends from early childhood education, ages 3-5 through high school. On average there are about 750 students who speak a language other than English and 10% of all students in USD 116 are English Language Learners (ELLs). There are 46 different languages represented in the student population. Recognizing that the world truly comes to Urbana School District 116, the School Board voted unanimously to adopt a dual language immersion program. The program includes two groups in each classroom of approximately equal numbers of native speakers and Spanish speakers. Students spend part of the day learning in their native language and the other part of the day learning in their new language. Dual language students outperform their peers and because dual language students interact across cultures, both students and their families develop friendships overcoming barriers not only of language, but also barriers of race and class.