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Somalian 16-year-old escapes for a new life

Lisa Hayes  |  May 20, 2015

When I recently visited the CWS refugee center in Jakarta, Indonesia, I spoke with a 16-year-old girl from Somalia. Covered in the traditional Muslim hijab, she had a thin frame and shy demeanor. For security reasons, I’m not able to reveal her name nor show her face. But I can tell her story.

"I saw my friends being victims to early forced marriage and sexual assault,” she told me, as we sat in a private upper room of the refugee center. They [al-Shabab] were forcing girls, like animals in the jungle.”

For more than two decades, Somalia has experienced wide civil unrest. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-affiliated militant group whose authority rose in 2006, has fought against Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

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Mud is heavy and other lessons in disaster response

Barry Shade  |  May 13, 2015

Mud is surprisingly heavy.

That’s the very first thing I learned about disaster response. It was 1972 and I was in my twenties, helping a family friend clean up after Hurricane Agnes caused the nearby Juniata River to rise to 30 feet above the flood stage.

The basement and main level of our friend’s house were a mess. There was so much mud, it was heavy and it was so hard to clean it off anything.

As I shoveled, scraped and mopped, I could not foresee that I would be involved in disaster response for many of the next 43 years.

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Mothers and Water

Beth Oppenheim  |  May 8, 2015

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate and appreciate the mothers and women that form our cities, communities and ourselves. We may get together for a nice meal, or just to spend time with those we care about if we’re lucky enough to live close by. 

This Mother’s Day weekend, I myself am 9,000 miles away from my mother, but I’ve just visited some mothers CWS has been working with in Kitui, Kenya. Kitui itself is a town approximately three hours drive from Nairobi. As the bustling and hectic city gives way to beautiful hills and valleys made green from recent rains, it is clear that many parts of this country remain fairly untouched from the rest of the world. 

CWS has been working in this area for nearly a decade in partnership with the Osprey Foundation, which has generously supported CWS Water for Life projects that have brought water to vulnerable communities across the region. Alongside the CWS Director of Immigration and Refugee Program, Erol Kekic, and two representatives from the Osprey Foundation, I had the opportunity to visit some of this work in action. 

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In Northeast Uganda, "God Brings the Clouds and Clouds Bring the Rains"

Chris Herlinger  |  April 30, 2015

Near Kotido, Uganda -- In the Karamoja region of northeast Uganda, talk about climate change is well beyond the theoretical.

People here know the changes in climate are real.

Though the region has had ups and downs in recent years with rain and dry spells, the overall patterns in general are clear: drought is taking more of a toll on communities. As a result, day-to-day life is becoming increasingly tough.

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Ecumenical Advocacy Days: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation

Luciano Cadoni  |  April 22, 2015

"We're here to raise the voice of those whose voices have been shut." These were the words of Emira Woods, one of the main speakers at Ecumenical Advocacy Days this weekend, where I had the opportunity to present a workshop in my capacity as CWS staff. This year’s theme was “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.”

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Freedom Bound: Sermon from Cathy Han Montoya’s End of Life Celebration

Rev. Noel Andersen  |  April 21, 2015

Cathy Han Montoya was an amazing organizer, strategist, visionary and best friend to all in the immigrants’ rights and queer movements. As a result of senseless and apparent random violence, she was tragically murdered in her home on April13, 2015, leaving behind her wife and family.

First Refugee Arrival in Jersey City

Mahmoud Mahmoud  |  April 17, 2015

An individual would never flee his or her country given the choice. On the contrary, a refugee flees his or her country of origin because they have been persecuted because of their race, religion, political opinion, nationality or they are a member of a particular social group and cannot return because they will be harmed.

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