This Land was made for YOU and ME!

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Canopy director, Christy here! I hope everyone had a safe and happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July is a festive time here in Claremont! There is a 5k race in the morning, a parade in the afternoon, and fireworks to end the evening. I laced up my running shoes and joined in and ran the Claremont Freedom 5k (yes the rumor is true, my 9 year old beat me. Really...he beat me by a few minutes!) I also walked the parade route with a local organization in town that supports Canopy. I was sporting my bright red Canopy Yalla! shirt for both events. It never gets old to hear folks shout "Yalla!" back at me, even when they don't know what it means. We are close to making Yalla! a household saying in Claremont! If you haven't had a chance to get your own shirt, head on over to our online store at: 

https://teespring.com/stores/claremont-canopy

Our Canopy families enjoyed the 4th of July tradition. Many of them attended fireworks around Southern California! Take a look at Canopy's youngest family member pictured above, looking so festive and adorable in her red, white and blue. I simply can't get enough of this little cutie!

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Earlier in July the Kanjo family, Taghrid, and I were back in Los Angeles! The fantastic folks at Kitchen Table App opened their home to us and the Kanjos shared their culinary secrets as they prepared an authentic Syrian meal for a group of 15! Our very own Taghrid translated for the guests, as Maysaa and Abdul explained each recipe. I am so proud of everyone! After the meal, Maysaa and Abdul shared their journey. They shared details of the trials, tribulations and moments of hope that came with their 6 year long journey from Syria to America. It was a very moving experience and left us all motivated to keep doing more and helping our new arrival families in any way we can. A big thank you and shout out to our partners at New Arrival Supper Club and Miry's List for making this happen!

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We launched a gift card wish list on Amazon, if you are looking for another way to directly help our families. With the recent judicial judgments in our country, it is more important than ever that communities support and rally behind our new neighbors. We have included cards for the essentials, like food and finances, but we also included fun things like Starbucks cards for our teenagers, who have study sessions over coffee after school. I threw in some movie cards as well, as our new friends learn more english they are enjoying taking in movie now and then. Small gestures like this show our Muslim neighbors we are happy they are here. So if you are able, head over to our Amazon gift card list and help us brighten our Canopy families day! All cards will be delivered to Canopy headquarters and distributed to the families!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/P9Z9T23OZMOI/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_4

It has been a busy month at Canopy! And we have a big announcement, I am so excited about this! Canopy will be partnering with the amazing non-profit, "A Country Called Syria" and the Petterson Museum at Pilgrim Place. When the Syrian Revolution started, Maria Khani (co-founder of A Country Called Syria) knew that she had to do something for her homeland, but what? What could be done that would strengthen the world’s connection to Syria in a non-political, non-religious way? The answer was none other than share the beauty of Syria and its people with the world. Stay tuned, this exhibit is coming to Claremont this fall! Yalla!

Canopy Iftar

On Friday, we threw a Canopy family Iftar dinner for our Muslim friends to break their fast. It was a wonderful evening of eating and laughing and just relaxing with friends. We would have loved to have opened this to the whole community but couldn't this year for logistical reasons. We hope to make this an annual Ramadan event.

Some 18 of our families attended the Canopy Iftar, with over 60 people in all. It was a lively group; children ran around Jennifer's beautiful garden; babies were passed around for adoring; and, as always, there was lots of laughing. 

Our guests arrived before sundown to sit in Jennifer's lovely backyard and visit. For some of us at Canopy who'd been dashing around to set up the dinner, abstaining from a glass of water or juice while we waited in solidarity was hard!  But our guests, who had been fasting all day, were relaxed and happy to sit and talk.

The sun went down at 8:01 pm. We shared a beautiful moment at dusk as one of our friends stood up and sang the call to prayer in a rich, deep voice. Then it was time to eat.

Thankfully, there was plenty of food. The Meat Cellar generously donated delicious Halal beef kebabs.  We bought a large order of Walter's wonderful Narenj Pilaf.  And all seven of us Canopy ladies made side dishes and desserts. (But not Christy, we don't let her cook, for everyone's sake.) A big shout out to Brian Kraatz, the home cook extraordinaire, who delivered a fantastic rice dish that was devoured immediately.

It's gatherings like this that make all of us at Claremont Canopy feel so lucky. The community of people in our area who've been displaced by forced migration is remarkable. They've all endured more than we can imagine and yet they still bring laughter and friendship wherever they go.

We started Canopy to help them but continuously find ourselves benefiting too. The way they make sure to slow down and enjoy family and friends is a reminder to us to do the same. Our hearts always feel so full of joy after we've spent time together. 

One of our Claremont Canopy friends became a U.S. citizen in January of 2017. On Tuesday, he went to Taylor Hall to vote for the first time. He'd never had the opportunity to cast a ballot, even when he lived in Iraq and then Iran. He told this to the volunteers at the voting center, and they were all thrilled to help him. It was a great first experience. He sent us a message afterwards saying, I did it. I voted. I am officially a US citizen! We are very happy for him.

All you eager volunteers, we are revamping our website. Soon it will be easier to let us know what interests and skills you have to give. We'd love to find a way for you to get involved!  

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Spreading Ramadan Cheer

We’re in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, which means our Muslim friends are fasting from sunup until sundown every day. They’ve been telling us how much they look forward to this time every year but also how hard it can be.  So, we decided to get the community together to show our resettled friends that we’re thinking about them.

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On Tuesday, May 15, we hosted our first annual “Iftar In A Jar.”  During Ramadan, families break their fast together every evening with a meal called Iftar. Traditionally, the fast is first broken with dates, followed by other delicious treats and dishes. Many of you in our community generously donated dates and other wonderful things so we had plenty to make a jar for every single resettled person that we work with. Thank you!

Also, many thanks to Dania AlKhahouli of the non-profit A Country Called Syria for her great explanation of Ramadan and how it feels to celebrate it. Dania did a fantastic job describing the meaning of Ramadan and why, even given the daily sacrifices of no food and water, it's something she looks forward to every year. 

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To make the jars we all gathered around tables where donations had been laid out. Every person grabbed a paper that had a person’s name and a list of items to put in his or her gift jar. Included was tea, energy drinks, protein bars, plus books for the kids. Each jar also had a traditional Ramadan gift of clothing — gorgeous scarves for the women and socks or shirts for the men.

By the end of the night we had assembled over 70 jars for our friends, plus an additional 20 extras for anyone else we might cross paths with. We spent the next few days delivering these gifts to our Muslim neighbors and were humbled by their gratitude. They were all touched that members of the community thought to do something kind for them. Here’s an excerpt from a note we received: “Hello my dear sister. I got the package today from all if you. More than one billion thanks. I can't telling you when I opened the package I can't stop my crying you all have such big hearts and very very kind.”

A big thanks to everyone who participated — and to the LDS Church in Claremont for letting us use their space!

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Success Story and More!

We have some great news. Last week, one of our Syrian friends was hired by Pilgrim Place as a full-time painter. He’d been working night shifts at a bakery where hot temperatures and hard working conditions took their toll. Before he arrived in the U.S., he'd been a residential and commercial painter for a living and he hoped he could find similar work here. He was thrilled to be hired by Pilgrim Place. We heard that he came home from his first day of work Monday, happier than he'd been a long time (there may even have been some singing). Pilgrim Place is such a warm and embracing place. He was touched that he boss and the people he works with were so kind. And finally, after 14 months, he gets to stay home nights and enjoy dinner with his family.
A big congrats!

We are in the process of growing and changing. Our team has added two new members. 

Anita Shenoi, a Claremont McKenna College student, will be joining us for a summer internship, thanks to a grant from her college’s Mgrublian Center for Human Rights. She’s the community liaison for the 5C Refugee Advocacy Network (RAN), working to create opportunities for the college community to connect with Syrian families settled here. She’s also been an English tutor for the families. We’re super excited to have her help coordinate events, oversee the booming demand for Supper Club and help advance our Web site and social media outreach.

 Anita dancing with her brother (former president Jimmy Carter looks on) 

Anita dancing with her brother (former president Jimmy Carter looks on) 

Dr. Anne Bennett has also joined the Canopy family as head of the Job Committee. Many of us worked with her last year when some of our families arrived, helping to find them housing and furniture.  She’s an anthropologist who’s taught at the University of Arizona, California State University and Citrus College. She also spent four years as the Assistant Director of the University of Arizona's Center for Middle East Studies. Her ethnographic fieldwork in Syria, conducted in the mid-1990s, focused on the Druze sect. Lucky for us, she’s proficient in Arabic!

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Anne Bennett

Our Director Receives An Award!

What an exciting week! Our director, Christy Anderson, was honored as the Woman of Distinction for Claremont by our state’s 41st District for her dedicated service helping refugees in our community. The honor was well deserved — Christy has been tireless in her efforts to help local refugee families. It was also a vote of confidence for Claremont Canopy and its mission to help refugees thrive in their new country.

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Assemblymember Chris Holden gave Christy the award in front of over a hundred people at his office in Pasadena. He talked about Christy’s special relationship with the refugee families she helps. Many think of her like family — and undeniably she makes them laugh! (They tease her by calling her Barbie because of her blond hair.)

Also this week, Canopy has received fiscal sponsorship from Claremont Community Foundation. Which means we will soon officially be a nonprofit! Through the support of California Community Foundation, the organization will house Claremont Canopy donations. So now all donations, financial and material, given to Canopy are tax deductible!

Please check out their website if you’re curious to learn more: https://claremontfoundation.org/

A big congrats to our friend, and lead translator, Abdul Kublan for being chosen for a medical residency at Pomona Valley Hospital in Pomona, California! PVH is just a few miles from Claremont! After receiving a medical degree in Damascus, Abdul has been working hard to get his license here in the states. We are thrilled he will stay local. We didn’t want to lose him for three years to another part of the country!

Canopy is happy to welcome Jessica Moss as a new board member. A resident of Diamond Bar, Jessica has worked closely with The Interfaith Council of Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster to help organizations that assist refugees. She’s worked with ACCESS, A Country Called Syria, and United Nations Association-USA, among others. She has a master’s degree in Sociology from California State University Fullerton and is a regular lecturer at Mt San Antonio College and CSU Fullerton. She’s looking forward to bringing her experience in Orange County to the Claremont area.  

In the coming week, we’re going to work on exploring how to offer more emotional support for our families and how to provide after-school tutoring to refugee kids. Please contact us if you’d like to get involved.

Yalla!

Claremont Canopy Screens "Human Flow"

On Saturday, March 10, Claremont Canopy held our first event and fundraiser at the Rose Hills Theater at Pomona College. Many members of the local community came out on a rainy night to enjoy Syrian food and a special screening of the Ai WeiWei documentary "Human Flow."

It was a festive night, kicked off with the singing of "Happy Birthday" to our dear friend Abdul Kanjo and introducing him to an American staple- Costco birthday cake! There was a great energy as people mingled and enjoyed drinks provided by Last Name Brewery and Syrian appetizers catered by the Kanjo family. Many of our resettled friends were there and it was fun watching everyone getting to know each other.

With stuffed bellies, we all went into the theater to hear brief remarks by Canopy director, Christy Anderson. Christy spoke about our group and our hopes for this community. Then, to the delight of our new neighbors, she gave a special message in Arabic, which our friends assured us was (mostly) understandable.

"Human Flow" is a beautifully filmed look at refugee movements around the world. The film took us into refugee camps, along the escape routes that snaked through multiple countries, and into the minds of those fleeing oppression and violence. It was sobering and moving, but also very humanizing. I think we were all able to conceptualize this overwhelming crisis in a very individual way.

This fun and educational evening was a huge success and raised a significant amount of money for Canopy's initiatives. We are now hard at work looking at how we might address areas of need as well as planning for long term support and resources for our local families. Thank you to all who joined us on Saturday!

 

Hello Claremont (and Beyond)!

It's an exciting moment for us. For months we've been scheming and planning, building relationships and creating structure. We're taking what we've learned as founding members of a local refugee resettlement team, looked at what works and what doesn't, assessed what the long-term needs of families are, and built an organization that puts the needs of resettled families first.

Claremont Canopy will be addressing core elements of long-term refugee success: Employment, Education, Health Care, and Empowerment. We will be partnering with leaders in community, local government, and business to ensure that we can offer the very best relationships and resources. We will be maintaining a Community Advisory Board for this purpose.

We will also work with our partners at Miry's List and the New Arrivals Supper Club to utilize the power of social media and crowdsourcing so that anyone who wants to help with refugee resettlement can easily do so.

Are you excited? We are. Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages, get on our mailing list, donate to support our mission. E-mail us if you're interested in volunteering, advising, or have any special expertise to lend. Claremont Canopy is a community driven organization and we welcome your help! There is a lot of work to be done, let's get started!

New Beginnings

It's an exciting day at Claremont Canopy! Today was move-in day for one of our refugee families. They joined us back in mid-April, coming to California from Syria by way of Connecticut--- two parents, four kids, and a baby on the way. A month and a half later and after taking care of so many other things, they finally found a house in the area and are moving in. They started their stay here using the rooms generously offered by Pomona Presbyterian Church. From there, they moved into a motel in Claremont as their kids got enrolled and started school. In the meantime, the house hunt was long and exhausting.

Affordable housing is a real need in this community. We plan on making this a priority for our group. We'll get educated about it, making connections with the city and with affordable housing providers, and figure out how to make this lovely area a viable option for everyone.

But for now, we celebrate! After a long journey, Claremont's new residents have a place to call home.