Welcoming Week 2021

Please join Soft Landing Missoula and partners for Missoula’s fifth annual Welcoming Week. Through this nationwide initiative, we work to bring together neighbors of all backgrounds to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places to create thriving communities. Together with Imagine Nation Brewing Co, the International Rescue Committee in Missoula, Arts Missoula, and more, we invite you to this week-long cultural celebration!

 

Kick-off Party

Friday September 10, 5:30pm-8pm / Imagine Nation Brewing Co.

Join us for food, music, and great beer! For the fourth year in a row, the country’s first combo microbrewery + transformation center—Imagine Nation Brewing Company, will be creating a custom beer to commemorate and kick off events. While you enjoy your brew, Kamoon Arabian Cuisine AND Ragheef food trucks will be serving the best Middle Eastern food around. Top this off with West African drum and dance and you’ve got a party! Cheers to Welcoming!

 

United We Eat Wholesale Launch, Cookie Sale, & Eritrean Coffee Ceremony

Sunday September 12, 12pm-3pm / Masala

A UWE Extravaganza! Come celebrate the launch of UWE’s line of chef-made grab-and-go products, which will be on sale at Masala this fall! Chef Zohair will be making his famous samosas for you to try, and we’ll have chutney and dipping sauce for purchase (as well as more samosas). As a huge bonus, several of our chefs will have their delicious cookies for purchase and you can sip a tiny cup of coffee while experiencing the beautiful Eritrean Coffee Ceremony.

 

World View Film Series – Human Flow

Monday September 13, 7pm / Roxy Theater

Sponsored by the International Rescue Committee in Missoula, this film will kick off Arts Missoula’s fall World View Film Series. In its sixth season, these free films are followed up with a panel moderated by Humanities MT. The film, Human Flow by Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to human migration.

 

Stories of Home: Audio-Visual storytelling exhibit

Wednesday September 15, 5:30pm-7:30pm Opening Reception* / Missoula Public Library- Fourth Floor

*Self-guided exhibit will run through September 30

Stories of Home explores homes left behind, homes found, and the experience of the things in between. Put together by Soft Landing Missoula, this exhibit pairs audio from interviews and the visual of beautiful portraits to help tell the stories of immigrants and refugees in Missoula.

 

Virtual Cooking Class with Chef Anne

Thursday September 16, 5pm-6:30pm / Zoom, $15

From Soft Landing Missoula’s United We Eat kitchen, learn from Chef Anne as she walks us through the steps of creating an authentic Iraqi dish. Hear stories about Iraqi culture and cuisine as Chef Anne cooks, and follow along from the comfort of your own kitchen. You’ll have dinner ready by the end of the class! Learn more and sign up by 9/14 at unitedweeatmt.org.

 

International Soccer Match

Sunday September 19, 3pm / Playfair Park

Come enjoy the universal language of fútbol (soccer!) and cheer on players from all over the world. Anyone interested in playing in this friendly match, reach out to volunteer@softlandingmissoula.org.

Afghan SIV’s as of 8/19/21

Afghan SIV’s as of 8/19/21-

First off, I want to thank those who have reached out in recent days (and really, over the last couple months) to learn about how they may be able to help with the events unfolding in Afghanistan. We would like to take a moment to acknowledge the devastating heart break for Missoula families originally from Afghanistan and/or with ties to Afghanistan who are currently scrambling to see that loved ones have a path to safety. In this email we hope to give you brief information on what is happening, a few resources, and possible ways you can help.

WHAT TO KNOW:

While the news continues to change daily, and even hourly in some cases, this is where we are in the moment I write this.

In the briefest terms, with the announcement of the US withdraw from Afghanistan a few months ago, the Taliban has steadily started to take over towns and cities, most recently the capitol city of Kabul- replacing Afghan government officials and military leaders, including the democratically elected president. We are all watching the chaos unfoldall over the news. The return of the Taliban and the reality of surviving under their rule is terrifying for many Afghans- especially women who are at risk of loosing the many rights they have gained over the last two decades (opportunities for education, ability to work, to name a few), and also for those who have served foreign governments and NGOs. Afghans who have worked with US military (sacrificing their safety and that of their families to assist our troops) have been targets for the Taliban for decades and because of this, there was a promise made and a path created to resettle these individuals and their families in the United States under aSpecial Immigrant Visa (SIV). While recently, President Biden has expanded SIV options and promised speedy processing for those in danger, this path has been around since 2006 and has been frustratingly slow and arduous for those promised safety in return for assisting the US in our mission in Afghanistan. Commitment to those Afghans in danger has been renewed, but in the wake of an incredibly fast takeover by the Taliban leaving over 10,000 Americans still in the country with a compromised airport and questions of how and when to even get Americans out, those of us advocating for SIVs and their families are left wondering how the US will fulfill the promise to get folks out by the August 31st date set for a full US withdraw.

I know many of you are interested in hearing what this means for Afghan families in Missoula, those that may be coming here under the SIV process, and those of us trying to help. Unfortunately, at this time there are no completely clear answers for this, but I will try my best to give what info I have. Again, this is a snapshot of time, and things may change quickly.

HOW TO HELP:

At this moment there isn’t a clear path for non-tie (those without a known family member or other tie in Missoula) SIV cases to be resettled to Missoula. Most Afghan SIVs are going to initially be placed in cities with larger Afghan populations- these states included in this at the moment ate VA/DC, CA, TX, and WI. The resettlement agency here in Missoula- the International Rescue Committee (IRC)- is a large part of the on the ground relief in Afghanistan, as well as the resettlement of SIVs in the US, but currently no non-tie cases are officially slated to come here to their Missoula office. That said, they are currently working with a handful of cases that have a local tie to another location in Montana and may be working with more, IF approved in this new SIV designation. We would encourage those interested in assisting these families in their resettlement to learn more about amonetary or in-kind gift to the IRC MIssoula.

As far as Soft Landing’s work right now in this area, as we are not a resettlement agency and other than support and advocacy, we don’t have a way any more than anyone else to create a path for SIV’s to come to Missoula. That said, we are working furiously with Afghans we know to support them in trying to get at-risk family members processed through the open SIV and other application processes. Our hearts and days have been consumed by this and we need your help in advocating for these families. PLEASE contact Senator Tester,Senator Daines, andRepresentative Rosendale and let them know of your interest in America’s commitment to vulnerable SIVs and specifically that getting SIV families with ties to Montana (Missoula is not the only location with ties to SIV cases) is an incredibly urgent matter. While we can’t make promises at this time on who or how many folks we may assist if approval is made to come to Missoula, we are currently putting resources and energy towards this and you are welcome to also support that work in a monetary donation toSoft Landing.

I know that with limited options to help right here in Missoula, many of you are also interested in helping beyond the local level. There are many great organizations out there that are doing direct work, as well as advocacy. I will list a couple below and you can give and get involved where your interests find a home.

Grassroots community based organizations across the US:

(These orgs are all part of the network Soft Landing is in- the Hello Neighbor Network– and we are in close contact with them and they are working hard with new Afghan families in their communities!):

Homes Not Borders

Refugee Assistance Alliance

Home for Refugees

Miry’s List

Hello Neighbor

Hearts and Homes for Refugees

Direct Aid in Afghanistan:

https://womenforafghanwomen.org/

https://preemptivelove.org/

Afghan-based and run org:

https://www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org/

Advocacy:

https://www.vfai.org/

Resettlement agencies:

LIRS: https://lirsconnect.org/get_involved/action_center/siv

IRC: https://www.rescue.org/

Again, thank you for your attention and your heartfelt desires to help those currently in so much need during this crisis.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula

Celebrating 2021’s Graduates

We were so excited to celebrate 3 more high school graduates that have participated in Soft Landing Missoula’s youth programming this past year. These incredible young adults just blew us away with their hard work- all three navigating school during COVID while working at the same time. Thank you MCPS and the families of these amazing students. We are so honored to be part of a team with you that supported these student’s success! On that note, last year SLM helped send the graduates into their futures with a little cash gift, as is customary for friends and family to do, and we extended an invitation to anyone from the community who wanted to add to that cash gift. We did the same thing this year and would like to make the same invitation to you ;). If you would like, you are welcome to drop some “congratulations cash” off at our office and we will see that it gets to these 3 awesome folks headed out into the big wide world.

Ange Uwera

 

It was not easy for Ange Uwera going to school while working to support her family, but she worked hard to graduate with honors, an academic honor medallion, and a 3.8 GPA while working full time. She is thankful to God, her community, and people who have helped her along the way. Ange is currently applying for positions to train to become a CNA, and has been accepted at Missoula College where she will begin her studies to become a nurse.


Saleh “JP” Ndiefi

Saleh “JP” Ndiefi arrived in the US in 2018 from Rwanda. His family could not afford for him to go to school in Rwanda, but when he came to the US he had the opportunity to finish high school and quickly showed academic merit in the school system here, graduating a semester early while working to support himself and living on his own his senior year.

He is interested in studying diesel technology and is currently applying to the diesel technology program at Missoula college. He says he always used to be a troublemaker, but when he came to the US he came for two things: to work and to study. He would like to find a good job that pays well and eventually become an engineer.


Sifa Esther

 

Sifa Esther is one of the second group of graduates Soft Landing has seen graduate from a Missoula high school, following her brother Janvier, who graduated last year. Sifa is excited to be done with high school because it was difficult for her to study while working full time. Before starting her journey on to college, Sifa will fork for a few years to save money.

She is thankful to all the people who have put energy into supporting her through her studies, including friends, family, teachers, and Soft Landing, who have pushed her to succeed, including everyone reading this message. She is thankful to everyone and asks for you to keep praying for her. In her future she wants to work in the fashion industry and become a business woman.

SLM Newsletter 6/16/21

Like spring weather…

The weather has been all over the board this spring (nothing new), and so have we (again, nothing new…)! With the small bit of chaos that the change in seasons always seems to bring, I am a bit late this month in getting a newsletter out to you all- my apologies (as if anyone even noticed! HA!).  I say that just to note that the additional couple weeks added to the list of things I wanted to bring to your attention and so you are now ending up with a long, a bit scattered, and certainly not “cohesive” blob of information in your inbox this morning from someone not organized enough or skilled enough to make it all present very “pretty”.  Thanks for your patience 😉

First, lets start off with the great news- GRADUATION! We were so excited to celebrate 3 more high school graduates that have participated in Soft Landing Missoula’s youth programming this past year. These incredible young adults just blew us away with their hard work- all three navigating school during COVID while working at the same time. Thank you MCPS and the families of these amazing students. We are so honored to be part of a team with you that supported these student’s success! On that note, last year SLM helped send the graduates into their futures with a little cash gift, as is customary for friends and family to do, and we extended an invitation to anyone from the community who wanted to add to that cash gift. We did the same thing this year and would like to make the same invitation to you ;). If you would like, you are welcome to drop some “congratulations cash” off at our office and we will see that it gets to these 3 awesome folks headed out into the big wide world. We are waiting on the professional portraits from this past week and you can look forward to us sharing these and a little more about each graduate in the next newsletter as well 😉

Congratulations, JP, Sifa, and Ange! You are amazing!

Next, I want to acknowledge some more incredibly wonderful and welcome news, and let you know about the BIGGEST CHALLENGE we, and many others, are facing right now. The wonderful news is that Missoula is once again welcoming refugee families through the International Rescue Committee (IRC) after quite a long break due to politics and COVID. We have been over the moon to meet these families and offer them a warm welcome. But there has been a challenge, which I am sure all of you can guess…Housing. When families first get here, the IRC helps them secure market rate housing with a small, one-time “stipend” designed to last 30-90 days as new families work toward self sufficiency in that time period. While finding initial housing for refugee families has always been a juggling act that the IRC has navigated with success over the last 4+ years, there are a huge issues right now for so many Missoulians when it comes to securing and retaining housing, and refugee families are facing the same. This includes not only an extreme lack of rental options for incoming families, but also rising rental rates for established families (sometimes by HUNDREDS of dollars a month), enormous expenses related to temporary housing in hotels and application fees, and the requirement of double, and even triple deposits to secure a spot. SLM has begun to insert ourselves in larger community conversations around long term solutions for these dire issues (again, refugees are not even the most vulnerable in our community to the risk of homelessness during this crisis) in hopes that we can lend our voice so that all can be better served, and so that refugee families don’t have to move away from Missoula before they can even get established here. That said, the success of Missoula as a “soft landing” for refugee families has always been in large part due to those of you reading this newsletter right now. PLEASE reach out if you have any ideas, connections, or opportunities you would like to share with us. There are currently two new large families in temporary housing situations (again, eating up in weeks the very limited assistance that is supposed to last at least a few months) as well as multiple families that have been here for a couple years and are now facing enormous changes in rental situations as they try to figure out how they can stay in Missoula through this crisis.

Let’s talk Special Immigrant Visas- SIVs. For the first part of this conversation, I will be using language and resources provided by the incredible organization- Vets for American Ideals– who is working tirelessly on this issue, as well as Hello Neighbor Network– of which we are co-founding members. If you already know the details, stick with me because after this initial information, I will also offer up the opinion and first hand experience of an Afghan friend.

Special Immigrant Visas have been available to Iraqi and Afghan citizens who supported the U.S. and NATO and subsequently face risks to their lives. As the U.S. plans to withdraw from Afghanistan in our world today, Afghan civilians who worked for the U.S. or NATO as interpreters and supporters are in danger and have been threatened by the Taliban. The Biden administration is examining long delays in the program and says it will be adding anti-fraud measures. But for the time being, 17,000 SIV applicants are currently stuck in processing and an estimated 70,000 Afghan lives are in danger for their affiliation with the U.S. The average length of wait for an SIV visa is currently 3.5 years due to an underfunded and under-capacitated program.

On May 25, officials announced that American troops are set to withdraw from Afghanistan by early- to mid-July, well ahead of President Biden’s September 11 deadline. With the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan proceeding swiftly, the fate of more than 17,000 Afghans who served American forces along with their family members is at risk. As the Department of Defense plans its evacuation of our allies, VFAI offers up these action steps to call on President Biden to evacuate our allies to safety in United States territory. 

Knowing I wanted to bring this issue to your attention due to the fact that we currently work with a handful of Iraqi SIV’s here in Missoula as well as Afghan asylees, I put in a call to a friend from Afghanistan, who has requested to remain anonymous, in order to gain a deeper perspective. I am also going to use the pronouns they/them to further protect identity and am so grateful for their willingness to share this insight with us.  They wanted us to know that this is their opinion and the opinion/experience of friends and family still in Afghanistan, but that theirs is, understandably, not the only voice.

My friend agrees with the information presented above and that the SIV applicants and their families are among the most vulnerable group that will most certainly be targeted by the Taliban with the withdraw of US troops, but they also wanted to bring attention to the fact that there are many other groups of people that are at risk of being targeted, raising the number in people in concern to what they are hearing reported as closer to 500,000 individuals. This includes not only anyone who holds or is in the process of securing other forms of visas with the US, such as student, work, or lottery-type visas, but really anyone who has had any affiliation with the US or other foreign governments.  After SIV’s, most concerning to them is those working for NGO’s in Afghanistan. This is a first hand concern, as they are here in the US as an asylee due to the targeting of the NGO they worked for back home by the Taliban and the risk to their life. They feel like the country is increasingly unstable, with 5-7 factions vying for power and the withdraw of US troops will increase the instability and tension resulting from these competing groups. They are unsure of the strength of the current (American-backed) president, Ashraf Ghani, to hold power through this turmoil- with or without a peace deal, although they hope a peace deal is brokered before the withdraw of troops. It is also their opinion that despite the eventual troop withdraw, the US should maintain a presence at a couple bases until we see how any peace deal may play out.  

While we can act (same link as above) to make our voices heard in support of the safe and speedy processing of Afghan SIV’s and their families, we also hold all of those in Afghanistan who are effected by US influence and eventual troop withdraw in our hearts and thoughts.

**We have also recently touched on the horrific violence in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region that is effecting many of the Eritrean families in Missoula, as well as the destructive volcanic eruption in Congo that continues to displace family and loved ones of some of the Congolese families. Again, we extend our love, our thoughts, and the actions we can take, how ever small, to these families as well.

With the tragedy and uncertainly that continues to face so many, it is even more important to find reason to come together and celebrate the resilience and contributions of refugees around the globe every chance we get. One of these reasons is coming up this weekend- Sunday June 20th is World Refugee Day. Many of you know that our World Refugee Day Cup Soccer Tournament has been one of our largest community building events in the past- and we hope will be again in the future. For this year though, due to continued COVID concerns at the time of planning (even though is seems like in the last 2 weeks many COVID restrictions have lifted, it takes a bit longer to plan these things!), we are keeping the event smaller and centered on the families who arrived in Missoula as refugees. There will, of course, be plenty of delicious food and soccer, and hopefully even a little music and dancing. Although our event isn’t open to the public this year, we do hope you will take a moment on Sunday (and every day!) to recognize and thank those in our lives who came to the US as refugees (and if you don’t know a refugee you can find out more about summer volunteer opportunities with Soft Landing below!), mark it on your calendar for next year, and continue to be on the lookout for pubic events through SLM as is safe. We are currently working on plans for Welcoming Week in September so fingers crossed.

Thank you for sticking with me through this long, and long-overdue, newsletter. There are a few more exciting announcements below, including our next virtual cooking class, an introduction to our summertime youth crew (and volunteer opportunities!), and a HUGE WELCOME to Rozan from Syria, who is joining our Untied We Eat team as a Soft Landing Missoula staff member! Woohoo!

I hope you are enjoying the spring weather as much as I am and embracing the bit of chaos that goes along with the change in seasons 😉

In love and gratitude,

Mary


June Virtual Cooking Class

Join us Wednesday, June 30th, 5pm-6:30pm for another virtual cooking class! Chef Asta So will teach us how to cook delicious Hong Kong style fried rice with a side of bok choy. This class will take place live on Zoom and participants will be able to interact with the Chef as she teaches us about Hong Kong food and culture. At only $15 ($20 with a tip included for the chef!) these classes are a super affordable way to experience the world- or even to gift a friend! The last day to register is Monday June 28th so don’t delay!

RESERVE NOW


Summa’ Time Team

We are very excited to welcome Hellie and welcome back Lorraine as AmeriCorps members on our youth program team! Lorraine and Hellie will be organizing a book club again for students this summer and coordinating activities with the kids throughout the summer from whitewater rafting to ice cream in the park!

If this sounds awesome to you- we are also looking for some additional summer volunteers for our youth program. Click below to find out how to join the fun!

VOLUNTEER


Exciting News- Welcome Rozan!

We’re so excited to introduce you to the newest member of the United We Eat/Soft Landing Team: Rozan Shbib! Rozan hails from Damascus, Syria, by way of Egypt. She and her mother, Chef Muna, are wonderful cooks, and we’re so thrilled to have hired Rozan to join our team as the Kitchen Assistant and you can learn a bit more about her and our other United We Eat staff at unitedweeatmt.org. She will be supporting our Kitchen Manager, Katie, in all aspects of the UWE@home program, and helping us as we dream a little bigger! While Rozan prefers us not to use her picture, she is incredibly warm and excited to meet you all- so don’t hesitate to say hello and give a big welcome if you are picking up food this week (and weeks to come!).

Summer Volunteer Call-Out!

We have been busy wrapping up our after school tutoring program as the school year comes to a close and are already ramping up summer programming! We are looking for some extra volunteer support for our summer youth program. Ideal volunteers will be able to commit to most weeks and be willing to provide transportation.

We have openings for:

Craft Night Assistants and Leaders -New crafts every Monday from 5-7:30

English and Cultural Orientation Class Assistants -for newly arriving youth on Wednesdays 10am-2pm

Book Club Assistants -for elementary and middle school students on Thursdays from 2pm-4pm

Outdoor Recreation Chaperones -for all age ranges and varying dates/times (transportation required)

Individual Mentors -for all age ranges and varying dates/times

 

If you are interested in joining us for any of our summer programs, please email natalia@softlandingmissoula.org

SLM Newsletter 4/2/2021

 

Some hopeful news from the legislature…

I know right?! As many of you know, the House, while updating the general budget – HB2- proposed the elimination of federal pass-through funding for refugee resettlement in Montana- that was bad news. A couple weeks ago, we (as a member of the diverse MIRA coalition and with guidance from the IRC) fought this through House committee hearings but it passed the House- more bad news. On Monday, we fought it in the Senate Finance and Claims committee and Wednesday afternoon we found out that the hard work had paid off. The Senate Finance and Claims committee voted this change down 12-7. That is the good news and we are elated. There was incredible testimony by Wilmot Collins (Mayor of Helena , MT) and Nolasque Balitebya (new Missoula resident)- both former refugees who have found a safe and welcome home in Montana. The committee also heard from many of us here in Missoula that serve refugees about how this essential funding is used to strengthen our community. Upon second reading the next day, reinstating the funding was brought by a legislator who is a former member of the US Armed Forces and spoke to his experiences of working alongside Iraqi translators (that now qualify for refugee status under the Special Immigrant Visa program- SIV) and refugees during his time in Iraq. His words were clear and powerful. Refugees deserve safety AND make good Americans. It was awesome. So, we “won” the day and I wish I could say “full stop” there, but apparently because this is the big budget bill, it now must return to the House for final approval. Thanks for sticking with us and continuing to make calls and write emails- keeping the pressure on and not just crossing our fingers.

So that is our main good news, but along with this, we have a few great events coming up that we wanted you to know about and also wanted to share a bunch of fun photos from our winter youth outdoor adventures as the weather turns warm and we transition into spring- which is more good news ;). You will find all of this below.

Happy spring and enjoy the sunshine!

In love and gratitude,

Mary

P.S.- Look for our 2020 Impact Report to come out next week! It was a bonkers year, but we are so proud of all we did and can’t wait to share more with you.

P.S.S- Looking to get more involved? We have openings for volunteers for 3.5 hour shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays in our kitchen with United We Eat! You don’t have to be a professional chef, you just have to be excited about learning and laughing with a great group of folks! Email beth@softlandingmissoula.org for more info!

Virtual Cooking Class

Cook with Chef Kezia from Indonesia!

Live virtual cooking class on Sunday April 11 at 4 pm MST. The recipe is Babi Kecap- an authentic Indonesian pork and sweet soy sauce dish. We will also be making rice and Acar- quick pickles- and you will be able to adapt for a vegetarian meal. We have partnered with @umglobalengagement to showcase Kezia and this delicious meal as part of 2021 WorldFest! For more info and how to register, click below.

RESERVE NOW


Hello Neighbor Network Convening

On April 14th you are invited to pull up a chair for the free and “open to the public” day of the 2021 Hello Neighbor Network Convening. You will leave feeling connected, supported, and empowered to move forward in your mission to build more inclusive communities. As founding members of this network, Soft Landing Missoula is excited to bring you along on this journey and welcomes you to join. Click on the link below for the incredible line-up of speakers and to learn how to register.

LEARN MORE


We had a BLAST outdoors with our Youth Program this year- sledding, skiing, and ice skating- but are now excited for the sun and warmer temps! Thanks so much to our amazing Americorps Leader, Natalia Boise, as well as all of the wonderful partners and volunteers that helped us have so much fun!


Come chop and learn with us! If you are interested in volunteering in our United We Eat kitchen on Mondays or Tuesdays, we are on the lookout for a few more kitchen helpers! All levels welcome! Inquire with beth@softlandingmissoula.org.

SLM Newsletter 3/9/21

Remember that time….

Remember that time (2 weeks ago) when I said I put out our final legislative push this session? Well… duh….famous last words.

Not only did HB200 and HB223 get stuck in committee due to the huge amount of bills trying to get through committee before the transmittal date* and we still need your support on these, but another, refugee specific issue has arrived as a surprise to those of us who have been following things.

HB2, the General Appropriations Act (the budget), is at risk of being amended to exclude federal pass-through dollars to support newly arrived refugees in the state. What does this mean? Basically, because refugee resettlement is a federal program, the federal government provides funding, AT NO COST to the state, to be distributed to facilities and organizations in that state that serve newly arrived refugees. While Soft Landing doesn’t receive any of this funding, we understand how CRITICAL it is to our partners. These federal dollars support staff and tutors in our public schools, staff working in employment and healthcare, the IRC’s extended case management program, and more. They support programs that focus on self-sufficiency and integration and have been a large part of our community’s success in welcoming refugees. Cutting this funding doesn’t mean that refugees won’t be arriving in Missoula, just that Missoula will be far less equipped to support these families that have already been through so much.

So, once again, we need your help. The House Appropriations Committee needs to hear from you. It is incredibly easy to reach the entire committee at this link, or feel free to individually contact your representatives- especially those of you in areas outside of Missoula with representatives on the House Appropriations Committee. Here is a list of members. Also, if you feel so inclined, you can join me in testifying on Thursday morning (8am session), or even just submitting written testimony. Here is a link for both written or verbal testimony and it must be filled out no later than Wednesday at noon. Again, they are making it extremely easy this year to participate and with your help we can kill this proposed change to general appropriations in committee and we won’t be fighting it all the way until May…

And please also consider giving the Senate Judiciary Committee another poke about HB200 and HB223. Retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) supervisory criminal investigator (SCI), John Colledge, wrote an incredible guest column about many of the things wrong with these bills. May it inspire your correspondence.

Thank you for continuing to push back at legislation that is harmful to refugees and immigrants this session. We know it isn’t the only thing on the plate and we are grateful for your critical efforts!

In love and gratitude,

Mary

*The transmittal date is the time in which bills that originated in one chamber must have passed that chamber and entered into the other chamber in order to be further considered. If this doesn’t happen in time, the bill is dead. For general bills in the 2021 session, this date was 3/3/21.


Resettlement Panel

Brought to you by the University of Montana’s Humanities Institute, and in partnership with Soft Landing Missoula and the International Rescue Committee, we invite you to a virtual panel conversation on this changing and timely topic- Wednesday, March 31st form 7:30pm -9:00pm. Click below for more information on panelists and to register.

REGISTER NOW


World View Film Series

Join us for the virtual discussion for the second of four films this season in the World View Film Series, sponsored by Soft Landing Missoula. This month’s film is Dawnland. Watch this powerful film for free with your library card on Kanopy anytime before March 18th, and then join us via Zoom at 7p for conversation.

REGISTER NOW

SLM Newsletter 2/11/2021

Great Expectations-

125,000.

While we work constantly to remind people that refugees are human beings- mothers, fathers, friends, children, uncles, families, new neighbors- not numbers, we are never the less quite focused on a number this week. 125,000. Each year, the president sets what is called the refugee admissions ceiling, or Presidential Determination. This number isn’t always reached, but it is aspired to, planned for, and actualized as best as possible. This number is usually set for the federal fiscal year starting every October, and for the last four fiscal years, we have seen this number shrink, then shrink more, then even more- with no effort to then actually even get close to these dismally and historically low admission ceilings that were set.

This simple act of setting such low ceilings has essentially dismantled a once robust and strong resettlement system that led the world in this specific humanitarian effort. To put more numbers to words, the admissions ceiling went from 110,000 individuals in 2016 (with a historic average of 95,000 and years in which it maxed out above 200,000), to 15,000 individuals this last October. For many parts of the resettlement system, it meant disaster. Overseas processing was gutted, many of the 9 resettlement agencies that resettle refugees in hundreds of locations across the US had to close local offices and lay off highly skilled staff. On a smaller scale, we also saw effects of this right here in Missoula. Although we are so grateful that Missoula’s resettlement agency- the International Rescue Committee- was able to hang on to this new resettlement site, we certainly saw reduced numbers of families arriving in the last couple years.

And it goes without saying, that those affected most by the dismantling of the refugee resettlement system are the very individuals and families seeking safety and a life of opportunity for themselves and their children. Those who lives, once again, got put on hold, or even lost in the process. Those families already here in the US awaiting the arrival of parents, adult children, and loved ones.

But here we are. President Biden has announced that in Fiscal Year 2022 (which starts October 2021), the new ceiling with be set at 125,000. 125,000- have I said that enough times yet? It is a joyful thing to say, but also incredibly daunting after the havoc that was just wreaked. President Biden himself said “It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged”. But we are watching with a feeling of hope in our hearts as the increase in the refugee admissions ceiling, along with a whole host of other reversals of inhumane and destructive policies from the previous administration and aspirational goals for more comprehensive immigration reform, start to be rolled out. In little Missoula, Montana- we will be here, with all of you, with open arms.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula


February Cooking Class

Back by popular demand, we’re offering a weekend brunch cooking class! Cozy up with your favorite kitchen helper and learn how to make savory spinach-cheese pastries, perfect for brunch, lunch, or happy hour treats. This virtual class on Sunday Feb 21st at 11am will be led by Chef Alex Papadopulos, who is Serbian-Greek. Purchase tickets now for yourself or as a Valentine’s Day gift for the chefs in your life.


Legislative Update

As you know, we have been working to oppose HB200 and HB223- companion bills that place federal responsibility on local police officers and perpetuate an environment of racial profiling and suspicion of immigrants. HB200 has passed through the House and will probably be on the Senate floor sometime next week, with HB 223 not far behind. The hearings have been contentious and there is still time and urgency to contact your representatives and senators– especially if you live outside Missoula. If you are interested in signing a letter as a faith leader, or a business owner, please email mary@softlandingmissoula.org.


SLM Sponsors BSFDD

For the fifth year in a row, Soft Landing is proud to sponsor films for the incredible Big Sky Documentary Film Fest (BSDFF).

BSDFF puts together a wonderful production of diverse films that bring light to issues that matter. We are always so excited to participate in this marvelous community event that showcases diversity and the arts!
Find out more information about SLM’s selections and all of the films here.


Cultures Coming Together

We are excited to announce that the Virtual World View Film Series, offered by Global and Cultural Affairs in Arts Missoula (sponsored by SLM), will continue in 2021 with the spring theme “Cultures Coming Together.” February’s film, In Jackson Heights (Directed by Frederick Wiseman), is available to view now and shines a light on one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the world, Jackson Heights, NY. 
For more information on accessing this FREE series and how to join our virtual discussion on Thursday Feb. 18th at 7p, click here.


We are so excited to welcome six new members to our board in 2021! We are looking forward to the year ahead with their skills and experiences to guide us! Thank you new AND returning members!

 

 

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A few more Photos!
These are from our January United We Eat Virtual Cooking Class with Zohair Bajwa. Zohair walked us through an incredible Shrimp and Veggie Curry from Pakistan- complete with secrets for cooking the best rice and an amazing fresh and tangy salad to pair with this delicious meal! Join us for our February class to cook some delicious Serbian-Greek food with Alex Papadopulos. More info above and here.

Big Sky Documentary Film Fest 2021

For the fifth year in a row, Soft Landing is proud to sponsor films for the incredible Big Sky Documentary Film Fest (BSDFF).

BSDFF put together a wonderful production of diverse films that bring light to issues that matter. We are always so excited to participate in this marvelous community event that showcases diversity and the arts!

This year, the BSDFF will take place in the comfort of your own home, which means you can stream the films in your PJ’s on your own time! Join us in enjoying a jam packed week of non-fiction films that provide us a deeper understanding on the world.


Our four sponsored films are:

Seahorse

Director: Nele Dehnenkamp
Producer: Christine Duttlinger, Nele Dehnenkamp
2020, Germany — 16 minutes

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

Against the prosaic backdrop of a community pool, a young Yezidi girl wrestles quietly with her traumatic memories of the Mediterranean Sea.

Available to stream on demand February 20-28


Yulisa

Director: Jonathan Schienberg, Joshua Echevarria
Producer: Joshua Echevarria, Jonathan Schienberg
2020, United States, Mexico — 14 minutes

WORLD PREMIERE

A young pregnant woman, fleeing for safety, finds herself trapped in dire conditions in a dangerous Mexico-US border town, just weeks before she will give birth.

Available to stream on demand February 20-28


Ale Libre

Director: Maya Cueva
Producer: Mayra Amaya, Melissa Bueno-Woerner, Daniel Tantalean
2020, USA — 17 minutes

WORLD PREMIERE

Alejandra is a criminalized organizer and unapologetic immigrant. While she prepares for one of the biggest events of her life — her deportation case — Alejandra is forced to reckon with a past mistake and a system that could tear her apart from her family and the only home she has ever known.

Available to stream on demand February 20-28


Aguilas (Eagles)

Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre
Producer: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre
2021, Canada, USA — 14 minutes

WORLD PREMIERE

Along the scorching southern border in Arizona, only an estimated one out of every five missing migrants is ever found. ÁGUILAS is the story of one group of searchers, the Águilas del Desierto. Comprised largely of immigrant Latinos, once a month these volunteers — construction workers, gardeners and domestic laborers by day — set out to recover the missing, reported to them by loved ones often thousands of miles away.

Available to stream on demand February 20-28


For more information on BSDFF, a full schedule of events, and to purchase tickets and passes, please visit their website here.

Conflict in Ethiopia pulls at Heartstrings of Missoula’s Eritrean community

Heartbreakingly, there are many conflicts, wars, and horrific human rights violations taking place all over the world at any moment. So many, that it becomes easy to not only tune them out, but become overwhelmed to the point of numbness. At Soft Landing Missoula, our work does not focus globally, on these large and complicated issues, but right here at home- in Missoula, Montana and how we can best help new Missoulians who have fled these situations and landed here thrive in their new home. While challenging in its own right, it is also a more tangible place to put our efforts- sometimes to a fault.

The fact that we too are the beneficiaries of the skills, talents, and diverse experiences that refugees bring to our community cannot be stated enough. One of the ways in which we benefit is increased awareness to what is going on in the world and the inspiration to continue to be a part of the healing of this often broken world. We benefit by having friends that put a face to the numbers, that continue to push us back to the global view and challenge us to think bigger.

This is the case right now as it pertains to the conflict happening in the Tigray region of Ethiopia- a place where some families here in Missoula have spent time in camps as refugees, and a place where friends and family that are still there are once again fleeing for their lives, many into neighboring Sudan. As most are, this conflict is extremely complicated and we are not writing this to take a side, but to take a stance that the loss of human life and the displacement of individuals and families is ALWAYS a tragedy. At the request of some of the Eritrean families here in Missoula, who asked that we help bring to the attention and educate Missoulains on the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, we would like to present a few resources for further reading (below). We have also reached out to try and understand the best way to help people affected, and as there is enough chaos on the ground to not have an avenue to assist local organizations at this moment, we are advised in supporting and trust in the great work that the UNHCR is doing in the region.

Below you will also find a link to join Soft Landing Missoula in making a donation toward the UNHCR’s relief effort specific to this crisis.

Thank you for standing with us in solidarity with our Eritrean community. As one young Eritrean we spoke to stated- “I want everyone to know what is happening in Tigray. Bombing is happening in Tigray and there are four refugee camps in this region. The camps have been left to fend for themselves, there is no food, no water, no hospitals and no security, my people are desperate and they have nowhere to go. We are very worried about them and we are asking for the bombing to stop now!”

 

Background from NPR:

What to Know About Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict

Ethiopia, UN Reach a Deal to Allow Aid

Refugees in Ethiopia

Other Resources:

BBC Current Situation Tracker

Short Video released Dec 30th 2020

One Way to Help:

GIVE to the UNHCR to support refugees fleeing this crisis into Sudan