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8th Annual Northeast Ohio India Festival USA; Welcoming International Students

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On Saturday, September 9th, we were back and forth between two very worthy international events where we tabled on behalf of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" which sponsored both of them.

First, we went to the 8th Annual Northeast Ohio "India Festival USA" held, as always, at the Independence Middle School on Archwood Road. We have tabled here before because its purpose is "bridging cultures, generations, and communities" and "embracing diversity" is one of its key themes.

We set up right across from the "Buckeye Youth Cricket Association" staffed by Mr. Viabhav Patel who immigrated to the United States twelve years ago from India. He let us use his power strip to charge his phoneand at the end of the day told us that things had gone well because at least 30 families had signed up to receive information about cricket and/or to consider having their children sign up for it.

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To the right of us, just a few feet away was the booth of "Designs Beautiful" which offered some very exquisite jewelry. As we have written before, our friend Dr. Simran Kahai is its Executive Designer/CEO and right next to "Designs Beautiful" was a booth occupied by "She Elevates" a nonprofit which helps young girls ages eight to thirteen start their own businesses. Much to her credit, despite what must already be a very ambitious schedule, Dr. Kahai finds time to serve as its secretary.

Other tablers included "Swab for Sundaresh" that requested bone marrow donors to aid a person of poor health; "Project Kaur Foundation" which disperses blankets and hygiene kits to needy families; "Labourers for Christ" a non-denominational organization which distributes Bibles and other Christian materials; and "Medical YATRA" staffed by our good friend Mr. Ramesh Shah.

In addition to the tabling, there was excellent Indian food available for purchase just one room over provided by "6 Flavors" an Indian restaurant in Parma, the "Saffron Patch" in Shaker Heights; and "Chennai Delicacy" in Parma Heights.

In addition to visiting with our neighbors and sampling the food (the offerings of all three restaurants were delicious) we talked to a young man from India who is here in Cleveland attending college where he is majoring in biomedical engineering and would like to remain here in the U.S. after he graduates and another young man who just recently obtained his green card and would like to now explore becoming a citizen.

Soon it was time to leave for our next event but our friend Mr. Bharat Kumar, the festival's executive producer, advised us to leave our table intact and all would be well if we made back by 7:30pm to take everything down.

 

Thus we headed off to the Global Center for Health Innovation to take part in the "InterCLE" program put on "Global Cleveland" and "Friends of Global Cleveland" in order to welcome international students from all over the world into (like the young guys from India we conversed with at the India Festival) our Cleveland community and give them the chance to network with each other, community leaders, and possible employers should they decide that theywished to remain here in Cleveland after they graduate.

During the speech of Mr. Alexander Lackey, Government and International Affairs Coordinator for the City of Cleveland Mayor's Office, we learned that this event came about due a suggestion that was made at a conference that was put on in March, 2017 in response to President Trump's initial travel ban. Ms. Yulu Li, President of the "Friends of Global Cleveland" said that she believed that these young people had tremendous potential to contribute to the diverse fabric of Cleveland and thus make it an even better place than it is now.

We, ourselves, knew this would be an important event so we arrived early and got things in order with the help of our colleagues from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" who were Mr. George Koussa, Ms. Judy Wong, and Mr. Jury Pychowycz. The first tabler there, however, was Professor Stephen Cory of CSU who teaches courses concerning History and Religous Studies and would later conduct, just as he has in his classes, a "Global Map Walk" which was all set up with maps of different countries and the world itself carefully laid out all over the floor of the back section of the conference room.

In addition to ourselves and Professor Cory, there were tables staffed by "ICC-WIN", "Cleveland Council on World Affairs", "Eastern European Congress", "Diversity Center", "Saudi Student Association" at CSU, "Cleveland Chinese Entrepreneurs Association",  "Cleveland American Middle East Organization", to name only a few. To be sure, there was also a table staffed by Mr. Dan Hanson from "Clevelandpeople.com" containing a few stuffed tigers from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" which Mr. Hanson raffled off during the program.

In the course of his introductory remarks, Mr. Joe Cimperman, the President of "Global Cleveland" noted that international students were present from a dozen local colleges and universities including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Oberlin College, Cleveland Institute of the Arts, University of Akron, Baldwin Wallace University, John Carroll University, Tri-C, and Ursuline College.

In addition to Mr. Cimperman, Mr. Lackey, and Ms. Li, the speakers were:

****Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (the latter via a short film) who basically welcomed the students and said that they hoped that they might become involved in other Cleveland community events (which includes attending a baseball game since the Cleveland Indians were doing so well) and perhaps deciding to make their home in Cleveland after they graduate.

****Ms. Radhika Reddy, the Founder of "Ariel Partners" who was also at one time a student from India attending college here in Cleveland. She said that she could really relate to the challenges faced by the young people regarding getting used to a new culture and urged them to persevere and seize all of the opportunities that the U.S. has to offer. She discussed the need to take any job available (even though it might not be one they particularly like) until they obtain their green card and then they could start their own businesses (if this is what they wanted) and realize their full potential. All told, we believe that Ms. Reddy imparted real wisdom in a way that the young people could relate to.

****Dr. Nizar Zein, the chair of Global Patient Services at the "Cleveland Clinic" and Mr. Aram Nerpouni, President and CEO of BioEnterprise, talked about how Cleveland has become a true center for biomedical research and healthcare and all of the possibilities that this meant for the students in terms of their careers and their futures. Along the way, it was greatly emphasized that more talent was definitely needed to fill all of the position that are and will be available and that the international students were in the position to provide it.

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****Ms. Margaret W. Wong, an immigrant herself, who contended that in spite of President Trump the United States is the greatest country in the world and promised to do all that she could as an immigration attorney to help worthy young internationals stay in this country so that they could contribute their talents and make the U.S. even greater. Ms. Wong urged the students to dare to dream about their future, discover their essence/core/purpose (for her it is helping immigrants) and be the best that they could be. She suggested that one thing that might help the students would be to read three newspapers a day just as she reads "The Wall Street Journal", "The New York Times", and "The Plain Dealer" so that they will know how our government and business community operate and how people like President Trump actually think. Another golden rule that Ms. Wong shared with the audience was never be too busy to offer assistance to people when they truly need help just like they would want someone to help them.

****Mr. Moatasem (Mo) Al Bitar of "Friends of Global Cleveland", who along with Ms. Courtney Ottrix of "Global Cleveland" was instrumental in putting on this program, is an international student from the Middle East. Mr. Al Bitar advised the young attendees not to be worry about proposed "walls" because more people are want to build "bridges" between countries and cultures. He then urged that foreign-born people to be true to their heritage and customs and embrace what makes the things that make them stand out as foreign-born people because this forms the roots of their personal and professional power. Along these lines he believed that Cleveland, with its history of embracing immigrants, was an excellent place to be.

In between the addresses, we were entertained by such international musical groups as "Hula Fusion", "K-Pop", and "LingYun Rising Star Gymnastics and Dance Group".

While the speeches were taking place, we were back and forth between the speakers at the front of the room and our table in the back. We got to talk to several people there including Mr. Girish Kurtkoti who told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong helped many of his family members immigrate to the U.S. from India and that he refers clients to her all of the time because she is the "greatest".

Unfortunately, as much as we would have liked to stay for Professor Cory's "Global Map Walk" we had to leave early to get back to Independence.

Fortunately we did arrive back at "India Festival USA" long before the 7:30pm deadline so we tabled for about another hour and then bought some vegetable curry and rice for dinner before we packed up and went home.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

Kwasi Bediako