News from the week of July 18, 2016

Here’s another round-up of what we’ve been reading and watching this week, from in the news and around the web:

This week, Cleveland welcomed thousands to the city for the Republican National Convention. The Forest City has a reputation for hospitality, and delegates from around the country are soaking it up. But Cleveland’s welcoming spirit extends beyond convention-goers: the city has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, too.

NPR’s Here and Now reports that Cleveland resettles more than 800 refugees each year, and studies show they often far better the average refugee. "The refugees here do a lot better. They're employed quicker, usually within five months, way above the national average, and I think it speaks a lot to how welcoming our city is,” says a community relations manager for a Cleveland refugee resettlement agency.

Just a few hours from the convention, another town in the Buckeye state is also doing much for refugees. VICE reports that Toledo’s enclave of middle-eastern residents—which has existed since the 19th century—has been instrumental in assisting the refugees of today’s global crisis. The importance of social integration and community cohesion to refugee resettlement is evident in Toledo’s “Littley Syria” neighborhood. From helping obtain health insurance to free furniture, "those people did everything for usv," says a recently resettled Syrian refugee.

While cities and towns across the country like Cleveland and Toledo are helping keep up the pace on the U.S. goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of September, experts believe that the United States and other wealthy countries should be doing much more. This week, Oxfam issued a report finding that the world’s six wealthiest nations, including the United States, shoulder less than 9 percent of the refugee burden. CNN reports on a statement released by Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima: "Poorer countries are shouldering the duty of protecting refugees when it should be a shared responsibility.”

Last week we reported on some of the tech innovations arising around the refugee crisis. Now, a computer science student from Aleppo is helping other refugees in Turkey get the information they need to build new lives.

Mojahed Akil was abducted, tortured, and forced to flee from Syria to Turkey at age 26. There the programmer put his expertise to use, giving the 2.7 million Syrians living in the country vital information, ranging from explanations of the Turkish legal system to translation services. “We started this project to help people, and when we have reached all Syrian refugees, to help them find jobs, housing, whatever they need to build a new life in Turkey, then we have achieved our goal,” says Akil.

Smartphones have a pivotal role in the lives of refugees—but they can also be a tool for the rest of us to better understand the refugee crisis. Check out this video—a powerful piece that transforms your phone into a refugee’s as they attempt to stay in contact with their family. Be sure to watch it on your mobile device!

Finally, an Oxfam blog gives us a deeper look at the lives of the ten refugees competing as part of the first ever refugee team in the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. We are rooting for Yusra Mardini, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee and star swimmer. Last year the boat carrying her across the Aegean capsized, and Yusra swam for over three hours helping her sister and others reach safety.

Now Yusra, along with the other nine members of the refugee team, have their first corporate sponsor in Visa. The company recently posted a picture of the swimmer on their Facebook page. The tagline: "Accept me because I've swum against the current to get where I belong."

Have reactions to share, or want to learn how you can be involved in our efforts to raise veteran voices in support of refugees? Find us on Facebook or Twitter, or contact us at [email protected].