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Helping Refugees Find Home in New Haven

Stephanie Held
January 23, 2018
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As a yoga teacher at mActivity, one of the most inspiring parts of my job is meeting people from all over the world in the classes I teach. A few weeks ago, I stayed after class to help a student get into a headstand she was struggling to do alone. We found her first balanced inversion, and we were so excited that we had accomplished this physical feat together, we ended up staying at mActivity even later—talking about her family in California, her fiance’s family in Germany, and about finding a new sense of home in New Haven.

This sense of home is something I had been searching for myself since moving to Connecticut from Michigan. Moving away from the place I was born made me think a lot about what home really means. And after more than a year of living here, I think home is more than a person or a physical place—home is ultimately a feeling; a sense of warmth and inclusion.

Part of our mActivity mission is to offer this kind of second home to nonprofits like our friends at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). Recently, we spoke with IRIS Executive Director Chris George and Development Specialist Kelly Hebrank to learn more about how mActivity can help make New Haven feel like home for refugees.

“It takes the support of a community to help refugees adjust to their new country and become self-sufficient,” Chris shared. “mActivity has been the best neighbor, and has generously hosted several IRIS receptions. Registering for the Run For Refugees 5K is one other small thing all citizens can do to join in community spirit. You don’t even need to run, you can just walk!”

Photo Credit: Stephanie Anestis

This year’s Run For Refugees will take place on Sunday, February 4 at 10 a.m., starting and finishing at Wilbur Cross High School. Registrants can join the IRIS team on CrowdRise and use their run to help raise funds to keep IRIS programs—like housing subsidies, health and wellness programs, and English education for refugee children and adults—alive.

“After the election last year, there was a swell of New Haven community support for IRIS and the Run for Refugees reached 2,500 participants. This year, we changed our course to one that runs flat through all of East Rock to accommodate more people,” said Kelly. “Our goal is to sign up 3,000 registrants.” There are currently 1,200 registrants this year.

We are supporting IRIS’ whole health by offering our sponsorship, registering a mActivity staff team, and opening our doors on Friday and Saturday so runners can pick up their race bibs and shirts before the race. As we create buzz for the race, we also hope to help make New Haven feel like home for all its residents. And the next step is reaching out to you—our mindful and conscious members. Please join us in the Run for Refugees.

We will celebrate afterward with international food from local restaurants like Claire’s Corner Copia, Mediterranea, and Green Leaf Catering. And who knows? After spending the day surrounded by your community, you might even be inspired to make friends with a new neighbor—whether from Sudan, Syria or the next street over.

Register and join us in the Run for Refugees on Sunday, February 4 at 10:00 a.m. The 5K race starts and finishes at Wilbur Cross High School, 181 Mitchell Drive, New Haven, CT.

 

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