Refugee Response’s “Reap the Benefit” Outing at the Ohio City Farm

On Saturday evening, October 2nd, we accompanied our colleague, Attorney Francis Fungsang, to the Ohio City Farm at the corner of Bridge Avenue and West 24th Street to attend The Refugee Response’s 10th annual “Reap the Benefit” gathering for which Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC was one of the sponsors.

In fact, over the years we have often supported the endeavors of The Refugee Response which “empowers resettled families to grow roots, supporting them in becoming engaged, self-sufficient and contributing members of their new communities.”

Among the activities that The Refugee Response has to offer are youth mentoring, adult tutoring as well as the opportunity to work at the Ohio City Farm.  

Ms. Sara Elaqad, Executive Director at Minds Matter Cleveland and herself, a refugee from Bosnia, acted as emcee. She explained that the theme for this year was “Making It Home” which is a very difficult process for a refugee who is often highly appreciative of even the smallest kindness.

Ms. Elaqad then introduced Ms. Naila Paul, Director of Education for The Refugee Response, who called Ms. Erin Bilbrey and Miss Jeanne Sife, the latter a young refugee from Uganda, to the stage to talk about their mentor/student relationship which has been quite positive for both. 

Another refugee who sharing her inspiring story was Ms. Sabzina Muhibzada who came here from Afghanistan in 2014 and in 2020 graduated from the John Marshall School of Engineering and is now studying to be a physician’s assistant at CSU.

Lastly, Ms. Khwater Nayef was presented with a special “Key to the Ohio City Farm” award. We learned that Ms. Nayef, a school principal who fled Iraq with her children in 2007, took the necessary classes to become certified in the United States, and is now Refugee Services Coordinator for CMSD.

We also got to visit with our friend Mr. Sanjay Garg, who immigrated to the United States from India and founded Shiksha Daan which provides educational assistance/development for low-income young Clevelanders. Mr. Garg told us that this was his first time attending a Reap the Benefit event and he and his wife, Mala, were enjoying themselves a lot.

 Despite not being able to have a “Reap the Benefit” last year due to Covid-19, we were heartened to hear that The Refugee Response remained more active than ever during the ongoing pandemic.

Among its accomplishments was the creation of a summer camp called “Karibu CLE” at Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy wherein young people could both play soccer and sharpen their artistic skills.   

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