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The Hungarian Culture Club in Fairport Harbor

On Friday, March 27th, we attended three events that were on the surface, totally different but still brought different communities together. Our first event was the monthly meeting/luncheon of the Painesville Chamber of Commerce this time held at the Hungarian Culture Club in Fairport Harbor.

Our speaker for the day was Mr. Frank A. Suponcic; Partner, Skoda Minotti; who talked about identity theft which is a very serious problem. We learned that every three seconds someone's identity is stolen and it is the largest of white collar consumer crimes. In 2012 7% of all people above age 17 were victims of it and the identity theft losses for that year were $24.7 billion. Mr. Suponcic used the hacking of Anthem to illustrate the how so much information can fall into the wrong hands and talked about precautions that people can take to protect their own personal information.

We asked him if people who had immigrated to the United States from other countries with a limited grasp of the English language were particularly vulnerable along these lines and Mr. Suponcic said that they absolutely were.

We also welcomed several new members into the Painesville Chamber including a firm called Differently Abled which provides home care services for the disabled who wish to remain in their own homes.

For us, however, the real stars of the meeting were students from an entrepreneurial program at Thomas H. Harvey High School in Painesville who were displaying the various products that they had created themselves. Accordingly, we looked over an eco speaker, handmade scarfs, soy candles, mood lights, paracord bracelets (made from parachute strings) and cement gardens in which outdoor lights can be created.

One of the sponsors of this student program was Ms. Kate Varholick who told us that these students will be competing in a business plan competition at Lubrizol Headquarters in Wickliffe on April 22nd. If at all possible, we certainly plan to attend.

Next we headed over to CSU for the 5th Annual Cuyahoga Country Conference on Social Welfare. We missed the morning session and the lunch but we wanted to attend the last session which started at 2:15pm.

Unfortunately there was no seminar/workshop dealing directly with immigration this year but we found one that looked very promising titled "Healing the Racial, Economic, and Opportunity Divide" conducted by Ms. Maudisa Meroe of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries and CSU School of Social Work and Ms. Jan Thorpe, Inner Visions of Cleveland. Ms. Thorpe talked about her organization which is a "hands-on nonprofit" dedicated to supporting neighborhood community improvement projects "conceived, initiated and driven by the residents of Cleveland and East Cleveland." Ms. Meroe talked about how various zoning ordinances divided Cleveland years ago and how it is still suffering from the impact.

The attendees then met in small groups to come up with suggestions as to how to remedy the situation. One of the things that we suggested was that the various communities of Cleveland must work together, as we have often observed the immigrant communities doing, while maintaining their cultural identities.

Most of the people attending this event were social workers or students studying to be social workers but we felt at home and learned quite a bit. We had a good conversation with Ms. Sondra D. McCurry, ACA Enrollment Navigator for the Cuyahoga Health Access Partnership which helps people obtain health insurance. Ms. McCurry, herself, doesn't deal directly with immigrants who need to obtain health insurance but is part of a consortium that includes Asian Services in Action and Mayberry Family Practice that do a lot of work with people who have recently immigrated to the United States.

The day ended in the main ballroom where Reverend Lorenzo Norris of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance and Ms. Margaret Mitchell of President and CEO gave excellent addresses about the need for social workers. Reverend Norris said that a social worker is important and is needed because he/she is "on the front lines" helping people make the changes that will make their lives better.

Our last event for the day was the "It's a Small World" celebration of culture presented by International Student Services at Baldwin-Wallace College. Just like the program we attended last week at Walsh University, this was a program put on by the students for the community.

There were tables of cultural displays from such countries as Morocco, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, Palestine, Brazil, Malaya, India, Ireland, Sweden, England, Germany, Nepal, Italy and Greece. We got to make a Swedish Flag out of paper and have our name written in Greek, Nepali, and Palestinian. We enjoyed matching United States phrases with their English counterparts such as "cheers" being our equivalent of "thanks" and guessing identifying photos of notable Hispanics. At the Italian table, we figured out what word (in Italian) applied to what color and number.

We spoke to a young woman named Amane with the Muslim Student Association who was thinking about reaching out to CAIR to possibly have a speaker come to one of their meetings so we obtained her contact information and will try to hook her up with Mr. M. Isam Zaiem, President Emeritus of CAIR who spoke at Westshore Unitarian Church last weekend. We also spoke to a young man from Ireland about connecting him with the West Side Irish American Club. We only wish that we had met him two weeks ago before St. Patrick's Day because he would have loved the activities going on at that time.

For dinner, we enjoyed sesame ginger bites from Asia, samosas from India, bangers in a blanket from England, cheese quesadillas from South America, hummus and pita bread from the Middle East, and Brazilian Cheese Bread.

We were entertained by the DJ Mr. Kris Koch who plays a lot of international music. People of all ages attended this event and the young children enjoyed dancing to the songs that Mr. Koch played for them.

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