Wednesday November 13, 2019
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Fellow African Refugees Seek Help From Iowa Couple

Parents say the tutoring helps their children learn subjects they cannot teach them.

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They live amid a recent U.S. political climate of suspicion toward immigrants or refugees and confusion over acclimating to America. VOA

Sam and Tricia Gabriel got off work on a dark January evening in Iowa. The temperature outside was -13 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Instead of settling into their cozy suburban townhome with their children, ages 9 and 2, the Gabriels quickly returned to the roads, slick with ice. Tricia drove her car in one direction while Sam drove a 15-passenger van in another, and for the next 1½ hours they picked up 30 children of mostly African refugees from across the Des Moines, Iowa, metropolitan area.

The children, ages 4 to 14, were taken to a local elementary school, where they practiced schoolwork, soccer and dance. Two hours later, Sam and Tricia drove them all back home, returning to their townhome after 10 p.m.

They said they do this every weeknight to help the children adjust to America. They don’t consider it heroic. Not compared to what they endured.

“I see myself in them,” said Sam, 36.

Sam Gabriel founded Genesis Youth Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa, after he was helped as a child from war-torn Liberia. Photo taken Jan. 28, 2019.
Sam Gabriel founded Genesis Youth Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa, after he was helped as a child from war-torn Liberia. Photo taken Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

Childhood in Liberia

As a young boy, he walked all night through the Liberia countryside with his parents, afraid that rebels would kill them. One man was plucked from the crowd and shot before his eyes.

“It was the first time I saw a dead person,” he said. “If they took my father, I would have to pretend not to know him and keep walking.”

Meanwhile, Tricia and her family were of a tribe targeted by rebels and fled to a government military base.

Sam and Tricia’s lives unknowingly ran a parallel course.

Both had lived in Monrovia, Liberia, as young children while civil war raged. Both ended up in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast before coming to Des Moines. Both attended high schools there, until one day they met by accident in the most American of venues — Walmart.

Tricia said she could tell he was a Liberian, even in the crowded aisles of a huge superstore. They talked, fell in love and married in 2011. They had two children while finishing their education at Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines.

But they say they didn’t escape death to settle for the comfort of the American dream. In 2014, the couple launched the Genesis Youth Foundation, a nonprofit that mentors refugee children, who often don’t have the money to participate in youth programs.

The Gabriels use donations or their own money for gas to travel, snacks or soccer uniforms for the children. It’s a tiring mission the couple performs every day, after Sam finishes his work as an Uber driver and Tricia as a nurse at a local retirement community.

But it fills a vital need, said Nicholas Wuertz, director of refugee services at Lutheran Services in Iowa, because “most of the federally funded resources for resettled refugees are for employable adults.”

Refugees in Iowa

Iowa, a mostly rural Midwestern state, is more than 1,600 kilometers from either of the heavily populated U.S. coasts. With a population of more than 3 million people, it ranks 30th among the 50 U.S. states. The state’s economy is rooted in agriculture and manufacturing, but also has diversified to include the insurance and financial industries.

In 2017, there were 18,782 Iowans who had been born in Africa, six times the number from 2000, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In fiscal 2018, 99 of the 110 refugee arrivals to Iowa were from African countries, according to the U.S. Department of State.

They live amid a recent U.S. political climate of suspicion toward immigrants or refugees and confusion over acclimating to America.

Just as the Gabriels said they once did, the children try to adjust to a new country while their parents work long hours.

Sam’s mom worked as hotel housekeeper, his father as a janitor. Sam said he tried to fit in, joining the soccer team in school. But his parents didn’t have the money for travel or uniforms, or even transportation to practices.

Tricia Gabriel, co-founder of Genesis Youth Foundation, hands out snacks to children in the program, in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2019.
Tricia Gabriel, co-founder of Genesis Youth Foundation, hands out snacks to children in the program, in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

Tricia wore clothes that suited her well in Liberia, but not so much in America. She said she was bullied and mocked in school.

Sam said refugee children feel torn, trying to conform to more American ways at school to avoid being bullied, yet facing pressure at home to carry on their traditions. They are often left feeling they don’t belong anywhere, he adds.

Sam wanted to help. At one point in his childhood in Ivory Coast, he said he ran away from his parents and was wandering homeless when a man he encountered helped him by giving him a place to stay and offering encouragement.

“Because of that man, every time I see young boys going through struggles, I know they need someone like me to help them through the struggle,” he said.

He started in 2009 with what he knew: soccer. At first, he brought together boys, many of whom couldn’t afford to join soccer clubs, for practice. He saw children from several African nations blend over their love of the game. He said he held them accountable for their behavior and for schoolwork, and he saw attitudes change.

Inspired by Sam’s passion, Tricia, 29, got involved, becoming the arts director of programming and adding a choir and dance group. Their small grassroots effort grew into a nonprofit in 2014, and in the past few years they have received a grant as well as a van to pick up the kids.

Abu Bakar of Des Moines brings his own children to Genesis programs after it helped him feel like he belonged and learn to communicate more effectively.
Abu Bakar of Des Moines brings his own children to Genesis programs after it helped him feel like he belonged and learn to communicate more effectively.

‘Hope’ the children give back

“My hope is that the children become better individuals in the community and give back after seeing what we do for them,” Tricia said.

On this frigid night, the school buzzed with activity. Some children played soccer, others danced. Another group huddled over school lessons, helped by a handful of volunteers. The children were born in several different African countries: Liberia, Uganda, Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, Eritrea and Somalia.

Abu Bakar, who joined the group while he was in high school, said it helped him stay out of trouble and build his communication skills after his parents moved to Iowa from Sierra Leone in 2005. Now in his mid-20s, he brings two sons, ages 4 and 5, to play soccer, too.

Other parents say the tutoring helps their children learn subjects they cannot teach them.

Korto Klar, 14, whose parents moved to Iowa from Liberia in 2005, said it helps her to be around other people who make her feel like she belongs.

Also Read: Nigerian Woman Struggle To Become The Country’s First Female President

The dance she is practicing on this frigid night is one she said she will perform in March, during a fundraiser, where refugee parents using their limited incomes and food stamps plan to cook a meal to share with the capital city’s larger community.

Sam said he wants the children to learn from the event: “You can’t be a leader until you           are a servant.” (VOA)

 

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To Meet Increasing Demand Africa Needs to Quadruple Energy Investments

Africa's overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, accounting for half of the global increase over that period

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Africa, Energy, Investments
The number of people living in Africa's cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China's cities during the country's 20-year economic and energy boom. Pixabay

Africa is set to become increasingly influential in shaping global energy trends over the next two decades as it undergoes the largest process of urbanisation the world has ever seen, a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday.

‘Africa Energy Outlook 2019’, a special in-depth study, finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population.

Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities.

The number of people living in Africa’s cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China’s cities during the country’s 20-year economic and energy boom.

Africa, Energy, Investments
‘Africa Energy Outlook 2019’, a special in-depth study, finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population. Pixabay

Africa’s overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, accounting for half of the global increase over that period.

These profound changes will drive the continent’s economic growth, infrastructure development and, in turn, energy demand, which is projected to rise 60 per cent to around 1,320 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2040, based on current policies and plans.

The new report is the IEA’s most comprehensive and detailed work to date on energy across the African continent, with a particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa.

It includes detailed energy profiles of 11 countries that represent three-quarters of the region’s gross domestic product and energy demand, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana.

Also Read- Xiaomi’s Foldable Phone may Come with Five Pop-Up Cameras

The report makes clear that Africa’s energy future is not predetermined.

Current plans would leave 530 million people on the continent still without access to electricity in 2030, falling well short of universal access, a major development goal.

But with the right policies, it could reach that target while also becoming the first continent to develop its economy mainly through the use of modern energy sources.

Drawing on rich natural resources and advances in technology, the continent could by 2040 meet the energy demands of an economy four times larger than today’s with only 50 per cent more energy.

Africa, Energy, Investments
Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities. Pixabay

“Africa has a unique opportunity to pursue a much less carbon-intensive development path than many other parts of the world,” IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

“To achieve this, it has to take advantage of the huge potential that solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas and energy efficiency offer. For example, Africa has the richest solar resources on the planet, but has so far installed only 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV), which is less than one per cent of global capacity.”

If policy makers put a strong emphasis on clean energy technologies, solar Photovoltaic (PV) could become the continent’s largest electricity source in terms of installed capacity by 2040.

Natural gas, meanwhile, is likely to correspond well with Africa’s industrial growth drive and need for flexible electricity supply.

Also Read- This Novel Flying Robot can Clean Glass Curtain Walls in High-Rise Buildings

Today, the share of gas in sub-Saharan Africa’s energy mix is the lowest of any region in the world.

But that could be about to change, especially considering the supplies Africa has at its disposal — it is home to more than 40 per cent of global gas discoveries so far this decade, notably in Egypt, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Africa’s natural resources aren’t limited to sunshine and other energy sources. It also possesses major reserves of minerals such as cobalt and platinum that are needed in fast-growing clean energy industries.

“Africa holds the key for global energy transitions, as it is the continent with the most important ingredients for producing critical technologies,” Birol said.

African countries are on the front line when it comes to climate change, meaning the continent’s energy infrastructure planning must be climate resilient.

“Even though Africa has produced only around two per cent of the world’s energy related CO2 emissions to date, its ecosystems already suffer disproportionately from the effects of a changing climate,” Birol added. (IANS)