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."

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.