This American city has a winning way of making refugees feel welcome.
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Ad Council - #EmbraceRefugees

There's something amazing about Cincinnati.

The stunningly scenic city of Cincinnati at sunset. Image via Stephen Weis/Flickr.


It's nestled into the southwestern corner of Ohio, on the beautiful and historic Ohio River. It's the home of the Bengals, the Reds, the Cyclones, the Bearcats, and the American Sign Museum.

Like many larger cities in Ohio, it is also home to one of the biggest refugee populations in the country.

More than 25,000 refugees have made their homes in greater Cincinnati. There are large established populations from Vietnam and the former Soviet Union, along with smaller, newer refugee populations from Iraq, Somalia, Bhutan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Burma.

Their backgrounds are as diverse as they come, but their reasons for leaving their homelands are similar.

Image via the Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

Some fled religious persecution. Others because of their race or nationality. Still others were attacked for their political views or social beliefs.

Whatever the reason, most of them left their homes quickly — bringing little or nothing with them — in search of a better life. As refugees, they went through the toughest screening process of any potential U.S. citizens, finally landing in Cincinnati.

While some groups like to sow fear around the "unknown" that accompanies refugees, there are organizations fighting hard to make them feel accepted and included — even loved — in their new communities.

One of those groups is Cincinnati's Junior League. For 95 years, this community organization has helped connect nonprofits in the community to the people who need their services the most.

More recently, they started Refugee Connect, a program that links up the 80 refugee-focused groups in greater Cincinnati to share learning and services so that the refugees they work with get the best help possible. Refugee Connect has scholarship programs and weekly classes teaching English and preparing refugees for their citizenship exams. But the program goes beyond teaching — it helps welcome refugees into the community.

Refugee Connect's newest tactic for connecting refugees in their community is as fun as it is simple: soccer.

"Soccer is a universal language — it's the connector," program director Robyn Steiner Lamont told Upworthy. "It doesn't require people to speak the language to play, and everyone knows it."

Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

While lots of Americans are more interested in football or baseball, soccer is the world's game. Aside from a ball, it requires no equipment. Anyone at any skill level can play. And unlike so many other sports, verbal communication isn't essential. For refugees, with their diverse backgrounds and sometimes limited English skills, it's the perfect game. It's also not a brand-new idea, particularly for Cincinnati.

After World War II, hundreds of European refugees settled in Cincinnati, including Al Miller, Werner Coppel, and Paul Heiman. Their shared experience in German concentration camps brought them together, but it was their love of soccer that truly united them. Their team, made up of refugees mostly from Europe, was its own community, helping members rebuild their lives in the United States after the war.

Al Miller (bottom row, far right), Werner Coppel (standing, far right) Paul Heiman (standing, second from right), and other members of their refugee soccer team, circa 1955. Image via The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, used with permission.

In honor of that same spirit of inclusiveness and community, Refugee Connect joined the Red Cross to organize the World Refugee Day Cup Soccer Tournament.

Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

More than 200 people signed up to play on 16 co-ed teams. There were participants from 10 different countries, ranging in age from adult to youth, from lifelong residents of Cincinnati to newly arrived refugees, all united by their love of soccer and community.

Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

The day started out with a Parade of Nations, where players carried the flags of their home countries, including Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, England, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal, USA, Zimbabwe, and Congo.

Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

Teams played hard all day, while an African drumming team kept the beat between matches.

Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

In the end, Team Senegal beat Team Mauritania to win it all for the second year in a row.

Their prize was a commemorative trophy and tickets to see the local professional soccer team, FC Cincinnati, where they'd be recognized on the field before the match.

The captain of Team Senegal with the tournament trophy. Image via Junior League of Cincinnati, used with permission.

The Cincinnati Junior League wants their community to be the most welcoming in America for refugees. Soccer is just one way to get there.

To the refugees building a new life in America — or to those considering one — Robyn and her team have a clear message:

"We are here to welcome you as your begin the next chapter in your life, a chapter of freedom. You no longer need to flee; you get to decide how you will live your life. We will stay with you, help you navigate a new culture, and provide resources for your success wherever possible. We hope to learn from you and to connect you to your passions. Your success is our success as one community."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less