Immigration Reform: Building Communi-Tea in the Triangle

Today’s post is written by blogger and CWS volunteer Ashley Brown

The crowd at Communi-Tea, photo by Kate Roberts

The crowd at Communi-Tea, photo by Kate Roberts

During the rain-filled weekend, the sun decided to make a special appearance last Friday as women of different nationalities, life experiences, and organizations came together for a common cause: immigration reform.  Colorful table cloths and flowers donned each table in preparation for the interfaith tea party and discussion titled Ruth’s Journey: Building Communi-Tea, moderated by by well-known WRAL-TV news anchor, Renee Chou.  Refugee and immigrant women spoke together with their native born American friends about how they had worked together to improve life here in the Triangle.

Casey Smith, a high school student and CWS volunteer, was first to discuss her work as an English conversation partner for Aline, a

Casey and Aline, photo by K. Cohen-Mazurowski

Casey and Aline, photo by K. Cohen-Mazurowski

refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. After being raised in the DRC and then fleeing to Kenya, Aline and her young family are now settling in to the Chapel Hill area. With Casey, Aline has learned to navigate the bus system, practiced English skills, and  developed a genuine friendship. Aline has taught Casey about reaching out to communities in need and how to persevere in challenging situations.

Flicka Bateman and Christine Wai’s story is one that shows how friendship can transcend differences. Flicka had lived in the Chapel Hill area for over 30 years when a refugee family moved in across the street. Christine, a young teen raised in a Thai refugee camp, accepted all the mentoring Flicka offered. Flicka not only tutored her in English, but gave her driving lessons (which proved to be frightful), provided a part-time job as a dog-walker, and encouraged her to pursue a college education. Today, in her late-20’s, Christine has a degree in Chemistry and works for a research laboratory. These two are still growing together, as Flicka is studying the Karen language and they have visited Thai refugee camps together.

When Edith, from Peru, arrived in North Carolina a little over 10 years ago, she started developing a Hispanic ministry for her church in Cary. Not long after Kristine enrolled in their Spanish language classes, they quickly became friends. Seeing the need to coordinate English and Spanish congregations, Kristine helped with ESL classes and the development of a Spanish Vacation Bible School in Peru. Kristine has been a good support system through years of mission trips,  attending Edith’s wedding and being there for the birth of her son.

Vimala speaks to community members at Communi-Tea, photo by Kate Roberts.

Vimala speaks to community members at Communi-Tea, photo by Kate Roberts.

Being of the Christian minority in India, Vimala Rajendran, came to the United States with her new husband, 30 years ago. Three children later, she found herself in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. Unable to work under her spousal visa, she utilized this time to study, get involved in media, and become an activist for international peace. Once separated from her husband, Vimala  and her children had a glimpse of true poverty. To overcome this struggle, she spent all of her time cooking favorite family recipes for donations. These community dinners proved to be the foundation for Vimala’s Curryblossom Café, a restaurant which pays its employees fair wages and is committed to feeding its community regardless of their ability to pay.

All of  these women are terrific examples of how we are stronger when we work together. When women from the United States welcome refugees and immigrants, not only do they get the chance to learn about a new culture, but they gain friends who will partner to change our community for the better.

Our partners at Faith in Public Life blogged about Communi-Tea here. The North Carolina Council of Churches blogged about it here.

More photos of this great event here.

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3 responses to “Immigration Reform: Building Communi-Tea in the Triangle

  1. Pingback: Ruth's Journey: What Immigration Reform Means for Women - NC Council of Churches·

  2. Pingback: Ruth’s Journey: A Groundbreaking Discussion on Women & Immigration | Interfaith Immigration Coalition·

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