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.