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2017 Annual Awards luncheon of International Partners in Mission (IPM)

On Friday, May 19th, we went to the 2017 Annual Awards luncheon of "International Partners in Mission" (IPM) that was held "Windows on the River" down in the Flats. The theme for the luncheon was the realities of forced migration.

As the program notes stated, "since our founding in 1974, IPM has partnered with children, women, and youth across the globe to promote justice, peace, and hope. Over the years, we have helped seed more that 350-life changing Project Partner initiatives across five continents impacting more than 60,000 people annually! Through our Immersion Experience Program, over 1,900 individuals have seen the world through the eyes of our Project Partners. Most importantly, we have built lasting connections that transcend barriers of culture, faith, and economic privilege."

One of the first people we spoke with upon arrival, was our friend Mr. Patrick Kearns, Executive Director of "The Refugee Response" who congratulated Ms. Margaret W. Wong on receiving an honorary doctorate from Tri-C at the Wolstein Center on the previous day.

We also talked with several people about the Immersion Experience Program including Ms. Maggie Halm whose sister had gone to Wyoming to note the work that IPM had been doing on a Native American Reservation. Likewise Mr. Chris Warren had accompanied Reverend George Hrbek on a 10 day trip to El Salvador where they traveled to 7-8 different communities where they observed work that communities were doing in conjunction with the guidance and counsel of IPM regarding the creation of cooperatives, schools, after school programs, and community government initiatives.

During lunch we shared with a table with such people as Ms. Annie Sowell who had taken two Immersion trips to Kenya both of which were among the best experiences of her life; Ms. Eva Nemcik who we interviewed for "I, Foreign Born" in late 2016 and Mr. Tim Dennis who has worked for years as an IT consultant focusing on assisting non-profits in the Cleveland area.

The invocation was given by Rev. Hrbek who quoted the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he said, "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." Rev. Hrbek went on to conclude his prayer by proclaiming that it is wonderful that we are all bound together as a "bundle of life" on the gift from God that we call earth.

As we ate Ms. Sowell told us of how she went to jail for almost 10 days in Birmingham, Alabama for her involvement in the civil rights movement. Of course she was very upset over the new hostility about immigration because she believed that everyone is entitled to be treated like a human being and that "this country is for everyone!"

In his opening remarks, Mr. Joseph T. Cistone, Jr. , CEO of IPM, noted that this organization has always been concerned about the plight of refugees and immigrants since it was first founded. Mr. Cistone went on to say what we all knew; that we live in challenging times in which politicians seek to divide instead of unifying us. He indicated that the recent hostility expressed about them has been generated by fear and therefore it was necessary to counter this fear with love and hope.

Awards for outstanding humanitarian service were then presented to Mr. John and Ms. Laurie Cunningham as well as Ms. Nadine Hopwood Feighan whose home in Lakewood we had visited in March, 2016 for a fundraiser for Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio when former U.S. Congressperson Barney Frank was the featured speaker.

An additional award was presented to ACACCPAMU, a women's cooperative in El Salvador which, as the program notes read, "works on initiatives targeting access to water and income generating activities for the community....Through their remarkable determination and extraordinary commitment, they were able to install a water system that distributes water to the homes of community members."

The day ended with an address by Ms. Fatima Pacas, IPM Regional Director of Latin American and the Caribbean, in which she spoke of migration from El Salvador. Afterwards, Ms. Pacas was kind enough to lend us a copy of her speech so we could photograph it.

From reading and re-reading it over we learned that due to a large wealth gap between rich and poor along with widespread gang violence about 25% of its population live in countries that offer better living and working conditions including the United States thus in 2015 16% of its GDP came from remittances and a 2016 study showed that 100,000 Central American migrants were living in the U.S. and 68% of them were in some way undocumented.

Ms. Pacas went on to say that "it is necessary to promote an economic and social system based on economic solidarity that allows brilliant minds, hard workers, and talented people to find opportunities in their countries of origin" but it is more than understandable that people feel compelled to leave and come to the United States "to seek a better future because they had no other option and need the solidarity of a helping hand."

To continue, Ms. Pacas contended that "it is impressive the power of international solidarity and local people at the basis level supporting each other to change lives. Being in solidarity is a strong commitment that entails collective and individual responsibilities, promoting brotherhood without boundaries. Personally my main goal will be to constantly challenge myself to help my region and to keep the struggle to finally reach peace and social justice in El Salvador and Latin America. But this cannot be an isolated battle. I need friends, people willing to love and share our struggle."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC