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  • Writer's pictureIbelong Philly

On The Table 2019

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

More than 10 organizations serving immigrants met to brainstorm on how to make Philadelphia a better place to live, work, and have fun.

There are plenty of organizations helping immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia focusing on different services. Some promote art and culture, others help them to find a job, improve their English, or support their daily struggles.

I Belong group believes that if these organizations meet on a recurring basis, cooperation and better services would be ensured.

But these discussions without immigrants would not be thorough enough in our opinion, for that reason we created the event On The Table 2019.

We would like to thank all of the people who came to discuss on a Thursday night to brainstorm on how to make Philadelphia a better place to live, work and play.

A special thanks to the Welcoming Center, which always supports us in our endeavor and to all the organizations presented.

Below you can find more information about the topics (Job, Community and Immigrant Image) we discussed.


1. Problems:

  • Most immigrants and refugees do not have a diploma

  • Many refugees are not even literate in their own languages

  • Brain waste for those who have diplomas and are underemployed

  • Childcare is not good

  • Lack of upward mobility

  • Lack of ESL classes for low level English Learners

2. Barriers for immigrants:

  • Lack of English proficiency

  • Diverse cultural norms of immigrants and within the US itself

  • No experience in the US makes it harder for immigrants to be taken seriously

  • Might have to change career to fill a need

3. What is needed from immigrants:

  • Patience

  • Willingness to work a lower job to improve English or get US experience

  • Adaptability

  • Updating to US way (Resume, cover letter ,etc.)

  • Willing to go back to school

4. Solutions that already exist:

  • Generocity started a Freelancer program for non anglophones

  • HIAS started the Employment Mentor program to train volunteers to do 1 on 1 work with immigrants

  • International Professionals Program at the Welcoming Center

  • District 1199c English classes for healthcare industry

5. Propositions:

  • Internship for journalists coming from other countries to have internships at news organizations to discover how it works here

  • Offering English classes for technical environments (just like District 1199C does)

  • Networking events focusing on immigrants

  • Educate the employers


1. Problems:

  • Immigrants are seen as 1 bloc. However, immigrants from South America are not a monolith, neither are the ones from Asia or Africa. Not enough attention is paid to these differences and different interests or treatments.

  • Lack of community building in neighborhoods. Different immigrant communities live in the same neighborhood, but do not mix or communicate

  • Deep divide between immigrant communities throughout Philadelphia

  • Gentrification is also about culture

  • Should immigrants acculturate or have the US adapt to their culture?

  • Medical assistance for immigrants

  • Organizing events to bring the community together is great, but what’s next?

2. Solutions that already exist:

  • AFRICOM: neighborhood subcommittees and work on community spaces and with libraries

  • Philadelphia Praise Center: home of 3 different ethnic groups. Has an Indonesian service, a Chin Burmese service and a service in English.

  • Unity Cup: great idea. Now there are 52 countries competing. Great initiative. Maybe we could use this event to provide information to immigrants and gather their opinions?

  • United Voices: Bringing more visibility of the immigrant population when it comes to elections

3. Propositions:

  • Cross community events with food to bring people together (I Belong One City Many Cultures example)

  • More programs for immigrants: ex: to learn about the culture and habits of here

  • More resources for immigrants to immigrants

  • Need to bring more diversity in leadership and representation in government

  • Make more events in the neighborhoods instead of center city

  • Ask for the buy in from community leaders when making a neighborhood event

  • Look into public school population: New immigrants are moving to different neighborhoods that they used to

Image of immigrants

1. Problems:

  • Immigrants do still struggle to be accepted in some areas in Philadelphia and its suburbs

  • Mostly hear about bad news in the media

  • Gentrification

  • Immigrants might also have a bad image of Americans themselves

2.Solutions that already exist:

  • According to the data, new entrepreneurs are immigrants

  • Be a model for your community

  • Many non immigrants speak out for immigrants

3. Proposition:

  • Try to talk to everybody, even if they don’t like you or you assume they don’t like you

  • Educate non immigrants about the stories and cultures of immigrants

  • Outreach to news organizations to promote good stories about immigrants and to avoid having only bad stories in the news.

  • Complain when stories in the news affect the image of immigrants

  • Narrative needs to change and won’t change itself

What`s more?

Want to know more information about this activities? Please email us at

Don`t forget to follow us at Facebook @I Belong - Philadelphia and Instgram @I Belong Philadelphia

Co-editor: Maria Gonzalez; Qiwen Tan

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