East Providence residents among those expected to speak at immigration forum


PROVIDENCE — Dorcas International Institute Rhode Island and Welcoming Rhode Island will host the “My Story, Our Community” reception on Friday, April 26, at Providence College in the St. Dominic Chapel Basement located at 1 Cunningham Square in Providence. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will conclude at 7:30.

Nestled in the cozy corner of New England, Rhode Island is a hopeful state for everyone who calls it home. Native Americans and immigrants from many nations have settled in Little Rhody for hundreds of years. All Rhode Islanders have an interesting story to tell. As a small state, we are only one degree of separation away from someone whom we presume ourselves to be completely different from.

Like Simony Ing, who was fortunate enough to escape to France and then the United States to avoid political turmoil in Cambodia. She recalls, “A lot of sad things happened during the Khmer Rouge… I heard a lot of sad stories… We left before the war; we were lucky.” Since then, she has created a happy life without fear and is excited about what the future will hold for her and her family in Rhode Island.

The “My Story, Our Community” reception will bring together immigrants and refugees, students, and members of the general public to honor local immigrants and refugees. Each individual’s story will be on display. 

Among those individuals explaining their stories are East Providence residents Antonio & Lourdes Simas (Portugal/Brazil) as well as Tatiana Cumplido (Colombia).

Others included in the event include, Analia Alcolea (Argentina), Onesimo Almeida (Portugal), Aleida Benitez & Petrona Rubio (El Salvador), Omar Curi (Bolivia), State Representative Grace Diaz (Dominican Republic), Arif Diwan (Pakistan), Bernard Georges (Haiti), Simony Ing (Cambodia), Tom Lanigan (Ireland), Jessica Monteiro (Cape Verde), Ricardo Reyes (Mexico), Antonio & Lourdes Simas (Portugal/Brazil), Ram Tiwari (Bhutan) and Lemlem Yohannes (Eritrea)

There are many things that Rhode Islanders can disagree on. One thing that brings us all together is our common values and shared future.

Tatiana Cumplido, an immigrant from Barranquilla, Colombia hopes that as a U.S. citizen she will be able to welcome people in the same way that she was welcomed. In this way, Tatiana will bring the community closer and help it become stronger. She knows what it felt like as a newcomer, and by having that advantage, she feels she will be especially comforting to those traveling here from all over the world.  She said, “People come here with a lot of depression, leaving their family behind. They need support, and people should support them, because even though that person is coming from another country, that person can make a difference in your country.”

Welcoming Rhode Island celebrates our shared values, and recognizes how new Rhode Islanders contribute to our economy, enhance our combined culture, and strengthen our communities.

Like Omar Curi, an immigrant from Cochabamba, Bolivia who arrived when he was two years old and graduated from North Providence High School. With the restaurant business as part of his family’s heritage, Omar now owns Los Andes restaurant in Providence and shares his vision of what Providence’s Chalkstone Avenue community might someday become. “Federal Hill started with one Italian restaurant,” he said. “So in the future we want to establish Chalkstone—with Los Andes as the start—as a South American community. Los Andes is the mountain range of South America, with countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Down the line, right here we could have a Peruvian restaurant, an Argentinian restaurant, and so on.”

The reception is free of charge and open to the public.

Welcoming Rhode Island’s mission is to bridge the divide between foreign-born newcomers and U.S.-born Rhode Islanders to foster a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. Hosted by Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and an affiliate of Welcoming America, Welcoming Rhode Island (http://www.welcomingri.org) is a community-based initiative that seeks to affirm our state as a welcoming place for all and continues to build strong, vibrant, and more cohesive communities across the state.

This initiative is an affiliate of Welcoming America (http://www.welcomingamerica.org/), a national, grassroots-driven collaborative that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and native-born Americans.  Rhode Island is one of the twenty-two states that have joined Welcoming America, to create an atmosphere — community by community — in which immigrants are more likely to integrate into the social fabric of their adopted hometowns. Welcoming Rhode Island is designed to shift the topic of immigration away from contentious debate and to encourage rational and respectful dialogue. This initiative, hosted by Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, is not political, nor does it advocate for any legislation.

In partnership with the Providence College Global Studies Program, the project was made possible through major funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dorcas International Institute Rhode Island, is an independent, non-profit agency with a guiding mission to empower individuals and families, especially the undeserved, immigrants, and refugees, to become self-sufficient and fully participating members of our diverse community through innovative programs and advocacy that promote education, training and cultural understanding. 


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