On May 27, National Louis University welcomed Odette Yousef, North Side Bureau reporter for WBEZ 91.5FM, Chicago’s NPR affiliate, for a talk on Dispatches from Chicago: Reporting on Immigrant Issues.
Yousef works in one of three urban community bureaus to extend Chicago Public Media’s coverage to people and places that may not always make it into mainstream news outlets. In particular, Odette focuses on issues relating to Chicago’s Asian-American populations, as well as many other minority populations that live in the city’s far North Side neighborhoods.
In her talk, Yousef described some of the issues facing immigrant communities and that through reporting on these issues helps bring these matters to light. She discussed the reality of a more diverse population of immigrants in the city, and that these new immigrants need more support services. Refugees from cold war countries now living in Chicago are calling upon social service agencies to assist with ESL classes, housing, and job skills.
Additionally, recent shifts in immigration have seen a growing population of skilled immigrants who are unable to work in their career fields and an overwhelming number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S.
She said there are promising programs for immigrants available and one that she enjoyed reporting on was the Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in the Albany Park neighborhood (Refugees raise vegetables, put down roots at urban garden). The garden was funded through the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program, under the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, and now in its third year is helping more than 100 families grow vegetable that they traditionally use for cooking but are not common in the U.S.
“It’s really been very important to many of these families,” said Youself. “They can grow vegetables to feed their family and familiar foods that may not be easy to find in American grocery markets. It also helps with the economic challenges families face when they come here by being able to sell some of their food, which in turn has been good for them spiritually. They realize they have skills that are valued by this society that they may feel otherwise they are not really be a part of.”
Many of the guests who attended the lecture are students in National Louis’ Pubic Policy and Community Psychology programs, and who work for the social service agencies that immigrants depend on so heavily.
Yousef’s talk was sponsored by NLU’s Master of Arts in Public Policy program.