Voices of Migration Course Site

An Oral History Collective

Author: grohoski (page 1 of 2)

Final Reflection

This project has been a very worthwhile experience. I think it has given me some practical academic skills specifically dealing with digital tools and creating a website. I think what I learned largely came from failure and not accomplishing what I wanted to. I really wanted to make the pages of each oral history really dynamic and interactive, but what I ended up with was rather plain. What I learned is how time consuming organizing a site can be and because I focused on that I wasn’t left with as much time for creating cool media for the pages. I also have a new appreciation for websites that are user friendly and accessible because making sure that happens requires the creators of a site to look at it through a whole new set of eyes.

I am also really glad that I was able to interact with the subject matter that I did. Learning about the history of a city and immigration movement was so interesting. The journeys that Lewiston and the people who live there have  experienced are so dynamic. To not just read about the history, but go interact with it, hear it from people that were there was a process that was fully captivating to me. I know it definitely allowed me to understand and remember what happened much more. I am glad for my own sake because knowing about this migration wave diversifies my knowledge about my home state. I am also glad for the sake of my future students. After completing this kind of project I would much sooner assign something similar to my future students than to have them write an essay. Having to speak with people about what you are learning about pushes students to understand more deeply. Interviews can be an asset in any type of classroom and I can’t wait to do that in my own classroom.

The last thing that this project gave me was a deeper desire to be involved in my local community. The women that I talked to both work with a nonprofit organization that help the immigrants in Maine. They expressed a huge appreciation for their community and how welcoming it has been, but they both saw ways that their community could be improved as well. They also go beyond talking about the problems they see and they do the little they can each day to educate people and speak out for the improvements they want to see. There is action behind their words and it is very inspiring. I was able to investigate the people making a difference in another community and I want to do that again in my own sphere and get involved with what I find. My life was certainly improved from meeting Fatuma and Bright and I owe that to this project which has probably been one of the most impacting academic works I have completed to date.

Interviews

I was finally able to get my first and second interview done. I actually had a really great time doing it. I drove to Lewiston and set up camp at the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. I was able to interview Fatuma who runs the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. Hearing her story was so interesting because she was among the very first wave of immigrants to Lewiston, so she was here for everything: the letter from the mayor, the rallies held, and started this nonprofit. I can’t wait to be able to share her story.

My second interview was with a young lady who has only been in the country for about two years. One of the more interesting things she said was that she believes the different communities need more interaction with each other. There are many shops that carry ethnic food and goods that have been set up by the new immigrants to Maine. She told me that the white residents rarely visit those shops and vice versa and it would help the community to work together if there was more cross-cultural interaction. Since I was in town I decided to check one out and get some lunch there. It was definitely a different atmosphere from grocery stores that I am used to, but the chicken and rice I got was mighty delicious.

Interviews

I was finally able to get my first and second interview done. I actually had a really great time doing it. I drove to Lewiston and set up camp at the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. I was able to interview Fatuma who runs the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. Hearing her story was so interesting because she was among the very first wave of immigrants to Lewiston, so she was here for everything: the letter from the mayor, the rallies held, and started this nonprofit. I can’t wait to be able to share her story.

My second interview was with a young lady who has only been in the country for about two years. One of the more interesting things she said was that she believes the different communities need more interaction with each other. There are many shops that carry ethnic food and goods that have been set up by the new immigrants to Maine. She told me that the white residents rarely visit those shops and vice versa and it would help the community to work together if there was more cross-cultural interaction. Since I was in town I decided to check one out and get some lunch there. It was definitely a different atmosphere from grocery stores that I am used to, but the chicken and rice I got was mighty delicious.

Research on Somalia and Immigrants of Maine

When people think of immigration into the US, Maine is not a destination that really ever comes to mind. That is because since the days of European settlement, Maine has been one of the whitest states in the country. The very rural nature of the state has not attracted a lot of diverse newcomers in the past. From 2000-2011, however, the there was a 19.6% increase of foreign-born residents (Jalali), and a huge part of that influx was into the Lewiston/Auburn area. As of last year there had been over 7,500 immigrants to Lewiston since 2001, a large portion of them from Somalia.

In the 1990s Somalia was thrown into a civil war and many Somali people fled to the US. A few refugees that were trying to settle in Portland found much more affordable housing in Lewiston which was going through a tough economic time (Kastanis). There had been major cutbacks and closures in the different mills and businesses in the town and the population was decreasing leading up to this. As refuges settled there, they shared the opportunity in Lewiston with friends and family creating a sort of ripple affect in the town. It even reinvigorated the economy as the new residents began opening businesses in the previously vacant stores.

 

 

Jalali, Reza. “400 Years of New Mainers”. Maine Memory Networkwww.mainememory.net/sitebuilder/site/2623/page/4227/display?use_mmn=1

Kastanis, Angeliki. “Maine Community Has Refugees and Resentment.” U.S. News & World Report, 19 Apr. 2017, www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-04-19/how-a-maine-community-changed-by-refugees-came-to-embrace-donald-trump.

Immigration Panel

The other week at my university there was a very timely event. As I was getting ready to contact organizations that work with immigrants in Maine, I got an email about a panel that UMF’s International and Global Studies Program was hosting. There was four women that came to talk about immigration in Maine in the context of current political changes. Each of the women work with immigrants in different capacities. Unfortunately, I was late due to a class and did not hear everything they said when introducing themselves, but I was able to gather some of the information.

The first woman, Julia, works with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project. They are a  group in Maine that work to provide free or low-cost immigration information and legal assistance to low-income Maine residents.

Next was Mufalo, who is the executive director of Maine Immigrant’s Rights Coalition. This group is a collection of leaders that work to enhance the lives of immigrants and in the same stroke Maine communities. They do that through advocacy and direct service programs across the state.

Fowsia works with Maine Community Integration, which is a non-profit organization that strives to increase the opportunities for integration and collaboration for immigrants in Maine. They do that through education and advocacy as well as creating meaningful cultural celebrations for the new Mainers.

Lastly, Fatuma of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine spoke. This is a group that started to help immigrant women and children in cases of domestic violence, but has expanded to provide more holistic help to women and children.

I heard the most from Fatuma and she was a very lively and captivating speaker. She spoke about the trainings that her group does to educate police officers and other state workers who work with or around immigrants. She truly wanted them to be more educated and to come away with a deeper understanding of how they can more effectively reach immigrant communities in a positive way. I can tell from the stories she told, Fatuma does not let people continue walking around with their false assumptions about the people she works with. I was even able to introduce myself after the discussion ended. Like I said the timing was perfect because she was a person I had been intending to contact to help us with this project. I believe she will be a very useful contact to have and interesting person to know.

Project Contract

Cali and I have written out (with the information we have so far) our project contract and the other documents we need to start our project. Below is the document:

Interview Question Daft

Cali and I have finally decided to try to reach out to the Somali population that is concentrated in the Lewiston/Auburn area in Maine. The planning is starting in earnest now so things are beginning to roll into motion. We have begun a draft document of our interview questions. It is really important to both of us that we allow the interviewees to be able to share what they think is important, and so our questions are rather broad and open ended. This should allow for us to follow up when interesting ideas and stories surface so each interview we do is completely unique. To learn more about how Cali is preparing, her blog can be found here.

Librarians are the Best.

My partner and I had a really helpful meeting with the archivist/special collections librarian on our campus. I wasn’t expecting much because Farmington, Maine is not known for its vast populations of migrants. However, librarians always have another trick up their sleeves so we weren’t left in the dark; she pointed us in the direction of how to get a good start on our search.

Firstly she suggested that we could start off with census data for the state of Maine to get some broad unspecific data. As we narrow it down we could look into info that county or city governments have available online, because it would be much more specific. She said that local libraries are also a great way to get our finger on the pulse of a community.  We also looked at a tool called the Maine Memory Network which is a place that contributors all across the state can upload information and images about the history of Maine and its residences. This tuned up some really interesting information about immigration going back 400 years. As we clicked on exhibits and pages more and more useful links were suggested, such as some information about the Somali populations there is in the Lewiston/Auburn area of our state. The best part of using the Maine Memory Network is that the contributors are all people we can find within Maine and talk to for more information.

Now that we had some basic information and a few directions to head in, the next big question came up. Once we identify a community we want to focus on, how do we go about contacting individuals? Our lovely librarian did not let us down! To meet and speak to individuals within an immigrant community we can contact organizations and charities that provide them with support and services. This would be a good first step that would allow us to be sensitive to people’s privacy.

Cali and I started this class with really no specific connections, so we have a lot of work ahead of us, but our local librarian was an invaluable piece of getting us started in the right direction. The lesson to be learned from this, is librarians are the greatest and helpful in any sort of research capacity. I am excited for the challenge ahead of us, and how it will unfold.

Playing with Media and Migration Matters

This week I began working with different types of media to talk a  little about migration and why it matters. I decided to go work with Google Slides, a tool that I have worked with before. Something I have not done, though is embed something from Google Slides directly into my blog. It took a little trial and error and some YouTube tutorials, but I had success in the end.

The presentation as it stands is some very, very basic information about why migration is important. I hope as I learn more I can continue to change and expand the information to show people why they should try to understand the issues of migration more deeply.

 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1NRwX9r9qyI9yeTan0tkzxr2IRgowT7e2HfdomnHPx8Y/edit?usp=sharing

Taking “Voices of Migration”

Last semester I was taking a class about teaching English as a second language, and it brought to the surface how much I loved the time I spent in Indonesia helping university students with their conversational English. I was so excited then to hear about the opportunity to take this COPLAC Digital class called Voices of Migration. To have the chance to take a whole class that will allow me to not only learn about people migrating to my home, but also get to talk directly to people that have made that decision and journey is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Interviewing a person for an assignment allows me to ask deeper and more personal questions and really learn what they are about.

A class like Voices of Migration gives me a chance to create something worthwhile. Many times in my classes I only write an essay analyzing a piece of literature that many people have not read, and therefore will only be read by myself and my professor. Though I believe that sort of writing has it’s place and purpose I am looking forward to creating something that I would truly want to share with friends and family. Most of all though I just hope that I can help somebody tell their own story whom might not have otherwise.

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