Snow fell outside last Saturday, but the mood was warmer inside the Amour du Christ Church on Clark Avenue where a few of Cleveland’s Congolese refugees braved the cold for a health clinic put on by IKON Health Foundation and The Refugee Response’s Community Advisory Board.
This health clinic, like its predecessor at Cleveland’s Somali Community Center in February, was designed to make basic health services more accessible for local refugee populations who face language, cultural and logistical barriers to getting healthcare they need. Saturday’s clinic didn’t draw a huge crowd or feature as many services as the one at the Somali Community Center, which provided Covid-19 vaccinations and dental health education to dozens who packed the center. Still, those who showed up said their community needs more health clinics like this, which offered blood pressure and sugar screenings provided by NEOMED pharmacy student Ikenna Ogwuegbu and the volunteers at IKON, which Ogwuegbu co-founded.
Cleveland’s Congolese community is among the city’s largest and fastest-growing immigrant communities with more than 700 refugees settling here from 2012 to 2020. Amour du Christ Church is based in the Bridge Community Center, which is owned by Envision Cleveland, a local religious nonprofit that, among other services, helps refugees settle in Cleveland.
The Land spent time talking with the few Congolese Clevelanders who came to get their health screened. Here’s what we saw:
Michael Indriolo is a multimedia journalist at Flint Beat, a digital publication in Flint, Michigan. Before this, Indriolo worked at The Land, a Cleveland-based nonprofit newsroom, spearheading coverage of Cleveland’s historic 2021 mayoral election and health equity. He began his career at The Portager, which serves Portage County, Ohio, investigating how calls for racial equity in the wake of George Floyd’s murder clashed with the status quo in rural northeast Ohio. Indriolo says that growing up the son of a Lebanese refugee and a parent born in a small town in America left him ethnically ambiguous while offering him unique insights into what being an American means, and if it weren’t for violence ripping through Lebanon in the ‘70s, most of his family wouldn’t be in America. That’s what he seeks to understand through journalism: how violence intersects with communities’ and individuals’ pursuits of the American dream.