Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Blog

By Emily Jabareen

2012 fall intern 

On November 11th, Arab American Family Services (AAFS) will host a dinner entitled “Breaking Bread, Building Bridges” in association with AmeriCorps Vista. The dinner will highlight the history that the Arab American community and the U.S. Army have shared, and will announce the launch of a project in collaboration with AmeriCorps Vista that will bring together US veterans who served in the Middle East and at-risk immigrant and refugee youth in a tutoring program that is aimed at connecting both groups in a supportive academic setting. The program will aid immigrant and refugee children, particularly those from the Middle East, to view the US military more positively.

The dinner will be held to honor veterans and serving members of the US military, to introduce them to Arab American culture, and to strengthen associations between veterans and the Arab American community.  

An estimated 3,500 Arab Americans currently serve in the military and have played an important role in US military engagements in Iraq and across Middle East, both in terms of relating cultural and religious differences to members of the US army, and accurately communicating facts on the ground in situations where language barriers often lead to confusion.

 “I can say that the fact that there are Arab Americans in the Army today has saved lives on all sides,” Brigadier General and head of military communications Anthony Cucolo noted during US involvement in Iraq.  In 2008, Michael Mansour, a Lebanese American and member of the U.S. Navy SEALs, died in the Iraq War and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.  The history of the Arab American community’s involvement in the US army and its demonstration of patriotism and sacrifice is lengthy, but rarely makes its way to news headlines and front pages.

The focus of AAFS in the coming year will be to lay the foundations for the project, to raise awareness about its necessity and benefits, and to garner the support and partnership of organizations that will assist in realizing the vision of AAFS and AmeriCorps for the tutoring program.

 In the initial stage of the project, AAFS will be reaching out to schools with a high percentage of Arab American students and collaborating with these schools to offer immigration and case management services. For veterans, AAFS will be offering social services for serving members that have recently returned from tours of duty.

After cementing vital relationships with the veteran community and the schools, AAFS will collaborate with AmeriCorps Vista to establish the tutoring program, which will screen veterans for tutoring jobs and assist schools in offering Arab students the extra academic training they vitally need. The program will first target immigrant children and refugees of Arab descent residing in the Chicago area, and branch out as demand for the program grows.

The program will assist schools by providing a crucial academic resource for academically struggling students, and the US military community by offering returned service-men and -women much-needed jobs. AAFS has been very active in the past in helping the Arab American community and residents of the Chicago area work collaboratively on a number of social issues, including domestic violence and mental illness. This project continues AAFS’s legacy of community involvement.  

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