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Happenings at St. Paul Cultural Village

Months ago, we never would have imagined the doors to our marketplace not yet being open as of April 2013. This is beyond our control. However, we’re glad for some activities that have taken place over the last several months, and we’d like to share some of these here:

1. Since November 2012, a group of Karen refugee ladies (from Myanmar) have been gathering one morning each week with a small team of licensed counselors. They’ve been using our meeting space, even as it went through a transformation to what it looks like now. We’re blessed that they’ve been with us for nearly six months, and we’re happy that our space has fit their needs so well.

2. We hosted a Christmas event on December 20th, also in our meeting space, and another night of food and fun on Valentine’s Day. We were a nice mix of cultures: Bhutanese, Karen, and American. Here’s a 3-minute video from that evening:

And here are a few pictures:

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3. The last week of March 2013 a college group from Redding, California helped run a day camp at St. Paul Cultural Village. They were a fantastic group. The camp was attended by Bhutanese and Karen refugees, and included games, art, storytelling, and more. This is one of the photos they took, but it doesn’t include everyone who was there:

Photo: A fantastic college group from Redding, California helped run a day camp at St. Paul Cultural Village the last week of March. The camp was attended by Bhutanese and Karen refugees, and included games, art, storytelling, and more.

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Our vision hasn’t played out according to our plans, or according to our timing, but we’re grateful for the people we’ve met along the way, for the people who have been impacted in some way by this project, and for the people who have impacted us.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Cultural Diversity In Our Neighborhood

The city of St. Paul is home to many people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. St. Paul Cultural Village is a place where cultures can come together, and differences are celebrated. The following chart, taken from data available in a NY Times demographics project, represents the population surrounding St. Paul Cultural Village within roughly a 12 block radius:

Area Location # of People % White % Black % Hispanic % Asian % Other
Directly north 4,992 38% 10% 11% 35% 5%
Northeast 5,471 25% 15% 8% 45% 7%
Directly south 2,226 37% 23% 17% 12% 12%
Further south 2,240 19% 40% 4% 34% 4%
Southwest 2,897 24% 16% 14% 45% 2%
East 2,474 39% 29% 15% 13% 4%
TOTAL 20,300 6,173 (30%) 3,908 (19%) 2,230 (11%) 6,862 (34%) 1,147 (6%) 

We are located at 230 Front Avenue, three blocks west of Rice Street, and five blocks east of Western Street. We’re roughly halfway between I-94 to the south, and Highway 36 to the north; and also roughly halfway between University Avenue to the south, and Larpenteur Avenue to the north.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Somali Refugees

Somalia, located in the horn of Africa, is said to be home to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world at this time. The following are some estimates concerning this crisis:

  • More than 300,000 internally-displaced individuals live in Mogadishu, the capital city.
  • Up to 1.5 million Somalis have been internally displaced within their own country.
  • Nearly an additional 1 million Somalis are seeking refuge in neighboring countries outside of Somalia.
  • The largest refugee camp in the world is south of Somalia in Dadaab, Kenya, and holds more than 463,000 Somalis.

Minnesota now hosts more Somali refugees than anywhere else in the United States, estimated to be as many as 75,000. They have come here as victims of civil war, famine, and often having witnessed other tragedies. A lot of Somalis, particularly in Minneapolis, have shown that they have a strong entrepreneurial drive. I’ve enjoyed walking through two Somali malls in Minneapolis, “Karmel” and “24,” and my favorite Somali coffee shop, “1st Cup Cafe,” has been full of people every time I’ve been there.

St. Paul seems to be uncharted territory for Somali business ventures, but we’re hoping that St. Paul Cultural Village will be a good avenue to see that changed. For a number of months now, a group of Somali ladies have been coming into International Village on Rice Street for free ESL classes.

This 8.5-minute video clip portrays the typical journey of Somalis who found themselves experiencing refugee life in Ethiopia or Kenya:

This 2-minute clip describes some of the struggles that Somali young people have experienced since coming to the United States:

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Refugees, Somalia

 

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Karen Refugees

The Karen (or Kayin) people make up about 7% of the nearly 60 million people living in Myanmar (Burma). They are generally located in the southern or southeastern part of this Southeast Asian nation. A brutal military regime and a tragic cyclone in May 2008 are a couple of the reasons why approximately 150,000 Burmese refugees now live in camps across the border in Thailand, and why more Burmese refugees (15,000) located to the United States between 2006-2009 than any other ethnic group.

The largest and fastest growing Karen population is right here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which is also home to the first Karen-led non-profit agency in the US, the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM). According to KOM, around 6,500 Karen people currently live in Minnesota. I (Adam) have had the privilege of meeting some of them, including several who attend International Village Church in the north end of Saint Paul.

This video (nearly 11 minutes long) contains footage from Myanmar, and helps to explain why this refugee crisis has been created and some of the ways that refugees are being helped:

Please enjoy this five-minute video of a traditional Karen dance performance that took place in Burnsville, Minnesota in May 2011:

And this is footage of a Karen cultural event in St. Paul, Minnesota in October 2012. My wife and I were privileged to be there for the last half of it:

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Karen

 

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Bhutanese Refugees

One of the newest and growing refugee communities in Saint Paul, Minnesota is the Bhutanese people. Many of them spent time in refugee camps in Nepal before locating to Minnesota. As a result, Nepali tends to be the first language of the Bhutanese people living in the north end of St. Paul.

This video, put to song, captures images of what life has been like for many of these refugees:

This video captures footage of Bhutanese refugees who have been resettled in Minnesota, including some of them sharing a little bit of their stories, and other footage of cultural events held here:

This video recounts some of the history behind the present refugee situation for the Bhutanese people (more photos and music):

This video was created by the United Nations as an effort to share the story of refugees from Bhutan:

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Bhutanese

 

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