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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69ed70000Akron’s refugee story over the last decade has been written largely by the arrival of thousands of Bhutanese people who spent decades in camps in Nepal. Internationally, it’s regarded as a resettlement success story. Now the city and the refugees themselves are trying to ensure it’s a local success as well.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69ed80000Beginning on Monday, October 2nd on WKSU's Morning Edition, WKSU reporter M.L. Schultze will examine the transition from new arrivals to established residents. Over the course of four days, her stories will examine how the community is overcoming the isolation of language and culture, how it's using the traditions of weaving to tell its current story, why refugees who settled in other parts of the country are moving to Akron, and the birth of the next generation of Bhutanese Nepalis in Akron. 00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69eda0000WKSU is partnering with Huffington Post as part of its Listen to America tour of 25 U.S. cities to tell the story of Northeast Ohio's Bhutanese Community both to Northeast Ohio and to the country.

North Hill Listening Project Highlights Resident Concerns Like Fresh Food, Language Barriers

photo of Liz Schmidt
Liz Schmidt (center) co-authored the report based on feedback from the North Hill listening project.

A new report is showing how residents of Akron’s North Hill feel about their neighborhood – and what their vision is for its future.

The report from the International Institute of Akron is the first step in a listening project to hear from residents of the ethnically diverse neighborhood that was once home to a large number of Italian immigrants. Today, an increasing number of immigrants are South Asian -- more than 5,000 in the past decade.

The institute’s Liz Schmidt co-authored the report and says one thing that many residents mentioned – regardless of background – was the desire to have community gardens in North Hill.

“There’s such a passion towards home-grown food and food in general.  It was brought up a number of times.  There’s a lot of people who feel -- and it’s not just immigrants and refugees who feel that but also American-born people – who have a lot of connections to agriculture and wanting to grow their own food.”

Schmidt added that a portion of the need for fresh food is being met by recent farmers markets in North Hill.

Johanna Solomon of Kent State University’s School of Peace & Conflict Resolution helped analyze the data in the report. She says another issue raised was language barriers.

“Someone is worried about speaking imperfect English and doesn’t want to engage with their neighbor because they don’t feel comfortable doing that.  Sometimes there are U.S.-born English-speaking people who don’t understand that their neighbor does speak English, or that they can communicate in some way.  So even the perception of language barriers increases the issue of language barriers.”

The next event for the listening project is a community dialogue session on October 13 from 2 to 8:30 p.m. at the Patterson Park Community Center. You can email Johanna Solomon to RSVP.

Editor's Note:  The email address to RSVP for the next community dialogue session and the hours have been updated.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.