FaithAction embraces, supports immigrants

In the last decade, an unprecedented number of immigrants have joined communities all over the U.S. With them, they have brought their cultures, religions and ethnic identities.

Of course change can bring hardship and erect barriers, but in our community the FaithAction International House organization has chosen to help embrace immigrants and diversity.

“FaithAction International House serves and accompanies thousands of our newest immigrant neighbors, while educating and connecting our diverse community across lines of culture and faith – turning strangers into neighbors!” says the FaithAction website.

“Our goal is to help Greensboro become a model Stranger to Neighbor city, and to share our experience with other communities at this urgent time in our nation’s history.”

FaithAction began 15 years ago.

“(FaithAction) is a long-time Greensboro organization that under Dr. Mark Sills, the founder and first director, has had an interest in standing up for marginalized people,” said Andrew Young, volunteer training coordinator for Bonner, and former board member for FaithAction.

Though often productive, the first 15 years were not all smooth sailing.

“Speaking as a former Board member, I witnessed FaithAction go through hard times, the perpetual state of many good nonprofits in town,” said Young.

Now steadily progressing, the organization faces a new challenge.

Immigration has begun to increase again, as our economy strengthens itself from its perilous state a few years ago. According to the United States Census Bureau, 523,400 immigrants joined the U.S. total population in 2013.

“Some of the main factors explaining such migration patterns are warfare, an increasing wage gap between north and south and U.S. demand for inexpensive labor,” said Maria Amado, associate professor of sociology and anthropology. “Sociological studies have also found that the growths of international immigrant networks, which circulate information about job opportunities abroad, are relevant in explaining the flow and direction of migration.”

FaithAction served over 4,000 immigrants last year. Through their efforts, Ibounou Maiga, a native of Niger, became a citizen of the U.S. He dreamed of his wife uniting with him in the States, and FaithAction assisted her as well.

They now have a baby girl and are living here happily.

FaithAction also helped immigrants receive food, housing, financial aid, healthcare, legal assistance, English classes and over 2,000 ID cards. Educating our immediate community about diversity and communicating across cultures is another one of their goals.

“Today FaithAction plays an important role reminding Greensboro of the struggles of many Latino families who come to our area,” said Young. “It is now one among several area organizations that provide service, assist families and advocate for a Greensboro that welcomes newcomers.”

FaithAction often promotes support for migrant families in Greensboro by holding events.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Carolina Theatre, FaithAction held a night of music, food and drink. Abdiel Vasquez, an internationally renowned pianist, and local jazz singer Nishah DiMeo performed songs on unity and the experience of immigrants.

All profits supported FaithAction’s future endeavors in helping our community and immigrants.

Of course, the best way to support the organization is to volunteer with them on their projects like their Downtown Unity Walk. You can also help advocate immigration reform and even organize a fundraiser to help their cause.

“The way to deal with south-north migration today indeed requires comprehensive immigration reforms that create a framework for legality,” said Amado.

FaithAction is doing just this, striving to provide legal aid to immigrants who need it most.