e: info@northsideup.org | ph: 315.470.1902

115 W Fayette Street Syracuse, NY 13202

What's Happening

Category: Hopeprint

Feels Like Home

Written by Hopeprint  • January 17, 2013

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

 

The turning of the year found me in the heart of Ethiopia’s Somali Region, an area that is almost entirely inhabited by the Somali people. The years of their presence in the capital city and other towns have born out in street after street lined with little shops making for the quintessential African market. Fresh fruit and vegetables sprawl out across woven mats. Scarves drape down walls in all kinds of colors, matched by the head coverings adorning all of the women in the semi-crowded streets.

Several of our meals included delicious cuisines of Somali food. I couldn’t help but feel like I was flashed back to African International Restaurant and my friend Muyheidin on N. Salina Street. [Some say when you go to the real deal, you can’t go back to the States version. I must say, Muyheidin, your food is legit! And the decor looked pretty similar too (smile).]

After the sun set, we took our third trek in for the fresh delivery of camel meat. (Wait until morning and it will be gone.) The grinning butcher talked with meat and blood covered hands, expressing the goodness of the camel hump that we ought to try. The streets were crawling with a different energy in the darkness of the night, but surprisingly not the kind you would expect. Rather, their was a gleeful spirit of laughter and enjoyment of life. Young people greeted one another across the road, shops were bustling, and the daytime swarms of begging children had died down a bit.

After spending a week in the former home of many of our new Americans, I felt a renewed sense of vision towards this blooming project for Syracuse’s Northside business incubator and international village. Within 72 hours of my plane landing back in town, I sat in a meeting with some of the key players of this vision and plan, and was filled with an even greater excitement than before.

Our New American population is bursting with entrepreneurial potential and filled with a longing for the sense of community and life that a gathering space which sells practical and necessary things can bring. While we tend to celebrate the find-everything-here-supermarket, the richness of the small markets with known owners and specialties is lost.

The clock is ticking and steps are moving towards the re-birth of such community spaces in our own city, re-branded and re-worked to highlight the ethnic treasures and diversity that now reside in our streets… I can hardly wait.

Contagious Hope

Written by Hopeprint  • December 6, 2012

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

 

As is the nature of most evenings at the Hopeprint Home, the knock at the door came right around dinner time revealing the small collection of children of various ages that are regular evening visitors. The little three year old girl in the clan and her near-twin-aged cousin take about two seconds to steal my heart every time. Often times the environment they find themselves in can wrap them up in the attitude and posture of a frustrated teenager, but when encouraged to be a kid, that’s just what they are.

The white boards and dry erase markers are the art form of choice. The little ones stand at the board near the entrance of our home, taking turns relatively well. One mistook a Sharpie for a dry erase marker this weekend. The board now permanently reads, “This has been a great day. I love this place.”

One particularly eventful evening last week, as food crumbs were being stepped on all across the floor, joyful shouts and boisterous conversation filled every room and and people of literally every age and many nations populated the space, the young pre-teen girl came up to me. “I don’t know how y’all do it in your house.” I smiled, looked around the room and responded, “Every time I see a little neighbor boy that used to say cruel things about refugees playing and laughing with an African refugee as a good friend… every time I watch people who used to be enemies or not know one another becoming friends… then every crumb and moment is worth it.” The momentary silence was certainly not empty, but heavy with thought and response. The next words came, “I want to help.”

As I collect these moments, I watch in wonder as hope, in all its richness and life-giving nature, becomes contagious. It transforms hardened, prejudiced hearts one relationship at a time. Slowly, blocks begin to change as angry words disappear. This is what I believe my 10-yr-old friend Jelly meant when she gave it a name…

“Nicole, do you know the Hopeprint power?”

“No, Jelly, what’s that?”

“Well this place, it helps people. It changes lives. And I think that we can take that power and use it to do more.”

Will we?

27 Million

Written by Hopeprint  • October 24, 2012

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

 

Seeking to be an active learner of the world, especially the unfolding stories of refugees related to our new neighbors, several of the Hopeprint team members have traveled to other parts of the globe for hands-on lessons. Sixteen months ago, one such venture brought me to the red light district of Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I witnessed the front lines of sex tourism in that city. As we walked through the blasting pop music coursing the rhythm through our veins, there was this sobering knowing that gripped and continues to haunt me. It was the knowing that this was just the “window display” of a much larger, complex network of girls hiding in the darkened apartments beyond the bright neon lights. Their voices, tears and screams drowned out by what was visible… rendering them invisible and unheard.

Experts say that there are 27 million slaves in today’s world. Unbelievable amounts of them are children, coaxed out of or sold by impoverished families who believe the trickery of paid “guides” or recruiters claiming they will lead them to opportunity. We are told that there are more slaves today than ever in the history of humanity.

We are told that there are more slaves today than ever in the history of humanity.

As we walked those Thai streets, my stomach turned each time I saw a 12-14 year old Asian girl hanging on the arm of a middle-aged Western man, kissing him, flirting and clearly feeding this romantic pleasure he had paid for. Questions began to rise up within me… What about my refugee sisters in Syracuse? How many of them have had this in their story?

As I listen to so many of their stories, the guides that led them to “freedom” are unbelievably identical to the raw details of stories of guides that arise from the human trafficking crisis. I cannot help but ask…  How many of them never made it?

Recently, two of my Hopeprint sisters from Bhutan shared with me some of their stories from the refugee camp, and I found myself with that gnawing feeling growing even stronger… moving from questions to partial answers. And the answers are not the kind I wished for. They told of the older women in the refugee camp and/or surrounding community that coaxed children to eat candy that was drugged to knock them out. Children and young women would disappear, sometimes returning after four to five years starving, infected with HIV and stripped of so much more.

They told me of one such girl that was a lucky one that made it back to her family. Sadly, when she returned home, pregnant from some “John,” she was rejected. In order to survive, she returned to the very thing she had fled.

“Many people who are very poor need the money,” the girls alluded to the sending off of girls with strangers with the supposed promise of a job. Often times, the girls were never seen again.

So if these aren’t just questions, if these facts are reality, what are we to do? It is simply impossible for all of us to throw our entire lives towards every human tragedy; this I know. But I believe that most of us don’t live up to our capacity to make a difference, to leave our hopeprint.

As Northsiders, we find ourselves in the crosshairs of the world at our doorstep. As we befriend our new neighbors, their stories intertwine with our own, bringing to light the truth that was there all along – the human story is our collective story.

When confronted with the collective human story, we have a choice – engage in it or protect ourselves from it.

When confronted with the collective human story, we have a choice – engage in it or protect ourselves from it. As Hopeprint, we are seeking to actively engage.

This season, members of the Hopeprint family and community are partnering together to amplify the voice of the invisible and unheard, the victims of human trafficking – CNY Freedom Makers. Through this campaign, we are participating in that collective human story gathering the voices and resources of Central New York to affect lasting change on one community where human trafficking flourishes: Manila, Philippines.

After hearing the stories of these children and girls around the world, a number of our Hopeprint family members got excited about what we might be able to do together to be a part of this movement. Some of the teen girls have set a goal to raise $1,000 together from our community. While they may not be personally financially-“rich” , these girls are rich with passion and wish to give it what they can to make a difference.

This isn’t a foreign crisis. It’s personal. It’s here. It’s part of our collective human story. 27 million…

Everyone has a hopeprint, where are you leaving yours?

 

 

Let’s Not Stop with a Grocery Store

Written by Hopeprint2 Comments • July 11, 2012

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

 

When the announcement of Wegmans on Pond Street closing hit the airwaves, it invoked a personal disappointment in my inability to drop by and pick up some bananas and yogurt on that mid week grocery shop. Yet, I knew that its impact on me was nothing compared to many of my friends and neighbors who don’t have cars or easy access to transportation. While practically every corner of our neighborhood is populated with ethnic markets and small grocers that add to the rich ethnic diversity and culture of this neighborhood, these small stores cannot afford bulk pricing.

This means less food for more money.
Produce and meat selections are limited and often times expensive.
Pharmacy options are downsized.
Incidental things like ATMs are now a mile further away.
The list goes on.

As I have watched the response of our Northside neighbors rising up, leaned in to hear to their voices, I have heard loud and clear:

This is a crucial issue to this community.

Yes, to you friends who have asked, “Is this really as big of a deal as the news is making it?” The answer is yes. In walking the streets with a smart phone video camera and asking for people’s response, I was increasingly assured of this. The words that struck me most were, “People live their life from there (the neighborhood grocer).”

A woman from outside of our community shared the other day of her confusion at the weeping women on the news when they spoke of the store closing – “Aren’t you over reacting? It’s just a store.” She continued, “Then it dawned on me, ‘I have a car. I have never known life without one.'”

I must say I am enormously proud to be a Northsider when I watch the passion and investment that this community has. It is far too easy for the passerby to not see and know the rootedness and drive that exist in these streets. I am more convinced than ever that this community has a future and can realize its dreams. The hope and abilities are already so rich here, and when we unite together with one another, networking with our friends from the greater community, imagine the things that can happen… Let’s not stop with a grocery store.

 

For more on the closing of the Pond St. Wegmans, read this syracuse.com article and watch this video. .

A Chance to Chat

Written by Hopeprint  • May 31, 2012


Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis.
All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at hopeprint.org.

It was one of our first evenings together in the house on the Northside that we had come to make our home. The eclectic group of five of us sat at our dinner table ready to dive into this adventure we had decided to take on together. Top of mind for each of us was the question, “We’re here, now what?”

For the previous months, we had been guests in a number of homes around the Northside, being taught how to eat with our hands, tasting goat for the first time and experiencing the incredible hospitality extended to us. All along we kept wishing for a home to invite our new friends to, to get to know them, learn from them and have a mutual friendship. Now was our chance.

For next several months, our dinner table was filled with neighbors and friends from all around the world. Each meal was filled with lessons of culture, history and life that we drank up with excitement. Amidst the conversations, we continued to hear some resounding themes – (1) enjoyment of being invited into an American home to build mutual friendships and (2) having the opportunity and converse in the English they were learning during their classes throughout the week. After several meals with one neighbor, they told us, “We want more of this.”

At the same time, friends and neighbors of the Hopeprint Home residents were “peering in the windows” of our lives, longing to build similar friendships themselves. So, we opened our door on Tuesday evenings to invite both our refugee neighbors and American friends to meet over a meal and talk in English, building relationships along the way. The first Tuesday Evening gathered 7 refugee neighbors and 5 American volunteers. Months later, the Hopeprint Home was busting at the seams with 95 refugee neighbors and 25+ American friends, beautiful friendships that were impacting lives on both sides budding along the way.

In the past year, Tuesday Evenings have continued to be an anchor to our weekly lives, building bridges for mutual friendships as they continue to form. With programming offered for the children, we are able to invest in the younger members of our Hopeprint family through crafts, games, sewing, soccer and more. Thanks to the Refugee Assistance Program, Assumption Church and a friendly neighbor, we have been able to have additional space for those who gather. The Hopeprint Home continues to be alive with activity on Tuesday evenings, filled with a different adventure every week, conversing in English, eating home-cooked meals and building friendships that extend far beyond our four walls.

“Tuesday evening is my favorite time of the week.” (Hopeprint volunteer)

 

 

42 Million Have a Name

Written by Hopeprint1 Comment • March 28, 2012

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Nicole Watts, Executive Director of Hopeprint, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of her posts are organized under the “Hopeprint” Category. You can learn about her organization and read more of her writing at blog.hopeprint.org.


Give me a rainy day, a soy latte and a few hours to wander Barnes and Noble and you will have yourself a contended woman. There is something about running my eyes over the titles and pages of books that brilliant people have written and read that just makes one feel slightly more intelligent.

The sections on immigration, refugees and citizenship tend to have a way of catching my eye (big surprise, I know). Thumbing through the pages of one such title Refugee Roulette, it states, “Nationals from well over one hundred countries applied for asylum in recent years” (Ramji-Nogales, p. 17). Another claims, “It’s harder than ever to get into the United States. It’s even harder to stay. This book helps you do both” (U.S. Immigration and Citizenship, Wernick).

In the midst of a bookstore, it’s easy for those topics and facts to stay purely academic. However, in these times, such conversations are becoming common and sometimes pressing. Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee? Why are we tightening those gates and should we? Should U.S. citizenship be extended to the world?

My friend (and Hopeprint volunteer) Bob recently reminded me, “This is our heritage. Almost every single one of us that claim American citizenship are the children of immigrants and refugees. It is the heritage of the founding of this nation, as well as its growth.” In the historical documentary series America – the Story of Us, General Colin Powell states, “The great strength of America is our people… our immigrant tradition, our bringing in cultures from all around the world.” At a main intersection entering our neighborhood there is a sign that reads, “Welcome to the Northside – Home to Generations of Many Nations.” This is the heritage of Syracuse’s Northside, yet the questions still remain.

Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee?

Why are we tightening those gates and should we?

Should U.S. citizenship be extended to the world?

I do indeed understand the heart of the questioning, and am a firm believer that if we are going to welcome people into our land we ought to be prepared to be hospitable and empowering. Yet, I know my own sheltered perspective was not able to see the answer quite so clearly until I found myself on the Thai border of Burma, dipping my toe into the river that separates the two lands. I had met hundreds of refugees on this side of the ocean, but I had yet to sleep in a refugee camp, taste their food and hear their stories, like Ah’s…

Her hair was cut short and she ran about with the maximum energy of a seven year old little girl. She grabbed my hand and motioned to come and sit, using the only language one has when we don’t share a tongue – our hands. Her little hands started to motion into the air and I soon realized she was teaching me a clapping game, complete with the Karen version of “Miss Mary Mac” from my playground days. Brushing off my kindergarten skills, I soon became her favorite clapping game partner. Each time she saw me she would come running, grab my hand and pull me to the floor practically singing the song as we went.

The monsoon rains poured literally non-stop for days, and with flooding the electricity went out in the room packed with small orphaned refugee children at the camp where we were staying. As the candles were lit to finish out the evening, a young Burmese man picked up his guitar and began to sing; the children’s voices soon overcame his own. The tears threatened to overflow from my eyes as I listened to their songs and watched their faces sing to their God with such genuine faith that only a child can seem to have. To the right sat the young boy who had lost a leg to a mine bomb on the border during his escape; he had lost a father to a similar bomb. Or the little angel cuddling up next to me with one eye blind due to physical war trauma. Or my little clapping friend who had lost both of her parents and now called this refugee camp her home.

Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee?

Why are we tightening those gates and should we?

Should U.S. citizenship be extended to the world?

I cannot ask those questions the same way anymore. It is not possible to objectify the refugee. They are no longer simply 42 million; they are one and another one. They are orphaned children and homeless families. They are uprooted business men and blossoming adults. They are teenage girls and old men. They are Ah Shim, Jerome, Rana and Bhim. They are friends and they are strangers. They are people. And some of them are our neighbors.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

(Inscription on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus)

 

Meet Hopeprint

Written by Hopeprint2 Comments • February 22, 2012

Editor’s Note: Just a few blocks away from our office exists a unique home. It is a place full of learning and support, where conversations are shared in a multitude of languages; it is Hopeprint. We’ve asked their Executive Director, Nicole Watts, to share stories from the organization on a monthly basis. Meet Hopeprint.

 

She didn’t have a name. Her language and the details of her story were unknown to me. She was a refugee. I associated her with U.N. tents covering the landscape as far as you can see in some desert land in the middle of Africa. The horrors out her back door were merely news blips on my television screen during the evening news. I didn’t know her, but something was stirring inside of me to care about her.

As I began to ask questions, the answers turned into more questions. In the end, I uncovered what I believe is one of Syracuse’s greatest secret assets – a large resettled refugee population living on the Northside of Syracuse. In 2010, over 1,100 refugees moved into this community. The numbers have continued to be projected right along those same lines for the years that followed.

Through relationships, I began walking their journey as resettled refugees, going to an American grocery store, clothes shopping and filling out job applications. (All far more challenging than one would think.) I sat with a single mother as she gave birth to her son, and held him at moments old as his mother rattled off prayers in her mother tongue with tears rolling down her face. I tasted and saw the challenges they face. Even more, I saw the unrealized potential.

Rachel arrived at 19 years old, just one year too old to attend high school. She resigned a brilliant mind to piece labor for money. Rana was an engineer in Iraq and now found herself cooped up in an apartment with no friends, job or cultural navigation skills. Bhim worked very hard to provide for his family, participating in job trainings and all, yet being unable to achieve his goals. Arriving in the United States brought life ripe with opportunities, but there was something missing.

Hopeprint was born in the fall of 2010 in an effort to address those gaps by building a bridge between the resourced communities of Syracuse and the under-resourced community of the resettled refugees that live among us. We believe that the greatest result for all involved happens through relationship. For that reason, we seek to use English and other programming as a field on which we both meet felt needs as well as build relationships.

In keeping with that relational drive, we have chosen to be a home-based organization which builds an extended family among our community – the Hopeprint Family. With our Hopeprint Home in the heart of the Northside neighborhood, we have team members living out our daily lives with the refugee community. This also serves as a hub for tutoring, networking, friendships and more through our ESL and college programming among other things.

We are proud to be part of Syracuse’s Northside, and look forward to the day when it realizes its potential as a hub of cultural diversity, breathing life and vision back into Syracuse. Until then, we’ll be right here, stoking the flame.

 

bg