A new haven for immigrants

IRIS prepares for annual 5K Run for Refugees

By on September 26, 2017

Photo courtesy of IRIS
By Nicholas Slater and Alexa Nikitas

The Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) will host its annual 5K Run for Refugees on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 in New Haven.

IRIS is an immigration agency that aids refugees in their dream of living in America.

“Wherever they’re coming from, refugee families have been forced to leave their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,” according to IRIS’s website.

Registration for the event will run up until raceday. The entry fee for adults is $25 (until Dec. 1) and $15 for persons under 18 years old. Participants who raise $200 or more for IRIS will receive a complimentary entry fee.

Senior health science studies major Gabriella Galvez, participated in the 5K last year when she was looking to find a way to get into shape. The more information Galvez learned about IRIS, the less it mattered about just getting into shape.

“Running to help support refugees meant that I was able to be part of a bigger movement, for a cause that I probably couldn’t help singlehandedly,” Galvez said. “I couldn’t be more proud to run for a cause that was so unselfish and showed how caring humans can be for other humans.”

The 5K is IRIS’ major fundraiser, according to Director of Community Engagement Ann O’Brien.

IRIS has been putting on the Race for Refugees for 11 years but hopes for a bigger turnout than last year.

“We had a steady regular growth of 10 percent a year,” O’Brien said. “Last year when the new administration came into D.C., and enacted the executive order, and attacked the refugee resettlement program, the New Haven community rallied unbelieveable from 1,000 (registrants) to 2,500 inside of a week.”

The screening process that immigrants must go through is a lot of work. The process includes a  background check and medical examination, as well as a sponsorship. A sponsorship is the support of an agency like IRIS.

IRIS rents apartments for their families and a warm meal during their first night. Families all participate in a cultural orientation to familiarize themselves with their new environment. Children of school-age go to school and adults are assisted in job searches.

Currently, there are 21 million refugees worldwide, according to IRIS. In 2016, IRIS welcomed 530 new refugees. Founded in 1982, IRIS has had a constant goal: “provide a new haven to refugees and other immigrants.”

Back in 2013, Quinnipiac released the Strategic Plan for Inclusion, Multiculturalism and Globalism in Education.

Diversity is defined as individual values, personal interests, personalities, learning styles, and life experiences, as well as group and social differences such as race/ethnicity, social and economic class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and ability, as well as political, religious, age, or other cultural values and affiliations, according to the Strategic Plan.

Diane Ariza, the associate vice president for academic affairs and chief diversity officer, shared her thoughts on diversity.

“It’s more than being able to roll your tongue or having curly hair,” Ariza said. “Individual diversity is important. There is a lot of commotion and awareness that our president is not opening our borders. We are not as welcoming as other countries have been to Syrian refugees. We say we are all about diversity, but our protocol does not adhere to our actions.”

Ariza likes to send the question of ‘why is diversity important?’ back to students in today’s political climate.

Recent events such as the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia have caused an uproar among individuals of diverse groups. There is a line between freedom of speech and hateful words being said, according to Ariza.

Diversity is something that citizens should be aware of because it is important to understand how to serve one’s community appropriately, according to Ariza

“Diverse thinkers are better problem solvers,” she said.

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