A touching photograph of a 5-year-old girl is being used in a 20th anniversary fundraising campaign for Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, a New York-based organization known throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean for educating, organizing and advocating for immigrants. The childhood photo of organization cofounder Lily Cerat, who turns 50 on Saturday, is being used to drum up financial support for the Brooklyn organization she helped establish in 1992.
A flyer – bearing the photo, an appeal for donations, and 50th birthday shout-out for Cerat – is being distributed by the organization and it supporters. Cerat, a Haitian-American community activist, educator and writer, started the group with fellow community leader Ninaj Raoul to help meet the many needs of Haitian immigrants in America. HWHR is a project of the Manhattan-based Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization. Raoul and Cerat experienced the immigrants’ needs first-hand when they worked aiding Haitians immigrants being held detained America’s Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
“Upon returning from Guantanamo in 1992, where Ninaj and I met working as Haitian language specialists, we began receiving calls from the refugees, who were arriving in the U.S. We had actually given our home phone numbers to them,” said Cerat about the immigrants, who encountered a host of roadblocks once they were allowed into the United States. “Many had no family in the U.S. and needed a lot of services: education, health, housing, domestic violence [intervention] as well as language and cultural brokering. We felt the only way we could help was to start something. Thus came Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees.”
Through programs and workshops, HWHR helps new immigrants legally obtain work authorization, prepare for jobs, improve their English classes and increase their chances of gaining employment.
“Finally, the workers rights education and leadership training, will better prepare them to defend themselves from worker exploitation practices that are typically imposed on newcomer immigrants in the working class sector. The end result would be more Haitian immigrant able to take a more active role in society, and work to improve their living conditions,” she said.
In addition to its regular initiatives, the organization is presently coping with a crush of applications for coming from Haitians trying to meet a federal Temporary Protective Status extension deadline for those displaced by the horrific 2010 Haitian earthquake, says Raoul. – CONTINUE READING HERE