News Local/State

Awards Given For Creating Welcoming Atmosphere For Immigrants In Champaign County


C-U Immigration Forum

Five individuals and organizations will be honored Saturday afternoon in Urbana for their service in welcoming immigrants to Champaign County.  

The winners of the 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards include Distinguished Service Award recipient Anh Ha Ho of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center in Urbana.

As co-director of the Center, Ha Ho helps newly-arrived immigrants find food, shelter and employment and navigate government bureaucracy.

At its founding in 1980, the Refugee Mutual Assistance Center once focused on helping refugees from Vietnam. But nowadays, the center helps immigrants, refuges and political asylees from around the world.

Ha Ho, herself a native of Vietnam, says the center’s current clients range from refugees from war-torn Syria to unaccompanied minors from Guatemala.

Ha Ho says nowadays, their clients include refugees from war-torn Syria and unaccompanied minors from Guatemala.  She says helping them can be challenging, but she finds satisfaction is whatever help she can provide.

“The most rewarding is when I can make things happen for them,” said Ha Ho. “How little, how big, it doesn’t matter … No one can do everything. But each one can do something.”

The Immigrant Welcome Awards are given out by the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum, a local group of immigrants and other community members that are concerned about the plight of immigrants in Champaign County. Secretary Megan Flowers says Anh Ha Ho leaves a powerful impression on just about everyone who knows her.

“She exudes wisdom and experience and is a very compassionate soul,” said Flowers, whose organization will present the Immigrant Welcome Awards at a ceremony at the Urbana Free Library on Saturday. The awards are tied in with Welcoming Week --- a nationwide supporting immigrants in American, and organized by the organization Welcoming America.

Other Immigrant Welcome Award recipients this year are:

Cristina Lucio, Student Leadership Award; for her work for immigrant rights as a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and as an intern for organizations such as the Colibri Center for Human rights.

Namsoo Hyong, Distinguished Service Award; Hyong, a native of South Korea, teaches martial arts in Savoy; the award cites his work with the Korean Student Association at the University of Illinois, helping to introduce them to American culture through socialization with students at his martial arts academy.

World Harvest International Foods and its owner Mahammad Al-Heeti, Business Leadership Award;

Avicenna Community Health Center, Community Organization Award;

Urbana School District 116 Bilingual & Multicultural Programs, Institutional Award.

The C-U Immigration Forum holds its ceremony and celebration for the Immigrant Welcome Award winners, Saturday, September 23 at 1 P.M. in the Urbana Free Library’s Lewis Auditorium.