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VOA Connect (02/09/2018)

[AIR DATE: 02 09 2018]



Getting to America

“Imagine not seeing your mother, your father, your brother, your sister. Imagine them being somewhere else and you know that they are not safe.”
(Animation Transition)

Becoming Jessica

“It just all worked out. It was totally part of God’s plan is what I believe. And my name changed from Tatiana to Jessica, Jessica Long!!”
((Animation Transition))

The Bookmobile

“When you are grinding day after day after day, there is no room in you for hope.”
((Open Animation))


((Banner: Getting to America))
The Trump administration has restricted citizens of several countries from entering the U.S., citing national security concerns.
Families and business owners in the US are feeling the strain.))

((Reporter/Camera: Ramon Taylor, Asli Pelit))
Zdenko Novacki))
New York, New York))

“I had a lot of friends that I felt bad for. They didn’t want to talk to anyone, honestly, because their moms were in airports and stuff,….

“….and they were stuck, and like I’m thankful for having my entire family here, like my brothers and my sisters. But imagine not seeing your mother, your father, your brother, your sister. Imagine them being somewhere else and you know that they’re not safe.”


“Because of the war, there is a big war, civil war, and because they want to get their family to a safe place, they cannot do that. This president, he doesn’t feel what people are feeling.” -


“I feel America is like my country. It’s like my second country, but right now I feel like I’m different. You know at JFK, I travel only a month and 20 days, and when you come back they pull you over. They ask you a lot of questions. They take your phone. They have to see inside what you have, what pictures you have.”

“We’re trapped. We can not move. You know? We are legally here. We want to go back and come back, do business, but we’re scared because we don’t know what the officer at the border will react against us. Chad is an active member of G5 in Sahel who is fighting against terrorism in the region. We are victims of terrorism in our country, in our markets, in our diffrent cities. Our villages are victims of this. We are scared to go outside. I am trying to create my own business, create my own company to make connection between United States, Canada and all the African French-speaking countries. This is a business opportunity we have here, to help our people to do business with the United States.


“Actually my mom is sick. I want her to come to the U.S. so we can see her, we can take care of her. Because of the war in Yemen, many people die, many people get killed. So I am worried about my mom too. So we are worried about our family. I am worried about my mom too. We can live without business, it is not a big deal, but we can’t live without family.”

((African asylum seekers face long waits and uncertainty along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Data for 2017 has not been released yet,
but activists say the situation worsened in the last year.))

((Reporter: Henok Fente))
Arzouma Kompaore))
Zdenko Novacki))
((LOCATOR: Pearsall, Texas))
“I’m Simone Koroma. I am 36 years. A native and citizen of Sierra Leone. I am in a South Texas detention complex in South Texas. I arrived on the 17th of January 2017. And then they took me to four detention centers. I left Sierra Leone because of the persecution I suffered.”
“ Fortunately I got a visa to get to Brazil. I continued my journey through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia. I came into Panama, Costa Rica. We were smuggled to Nicaragua, came to Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.”
"For Simone, that means that he is in danger of being returned back to his home country. But he is in fear of returning back to his home country because of the persecution that he has suffered or that he fears that he will suffer if he is forced to return. Our organization has noticed that there is a consistently good number of individuals from sub-Saharan Africa that are detained at the Pearsall detention center.”
“Once a refugee or migrant arrives at the U.S. border , they have some sort of interaction with C.B.P. which is the Customs and Border Patrol. If it's someone that seeking asylum like a refugee, if they express some level of fear of returning to their home country that should technically enter them into the asylum process. In Pearsall , it appears very much like a jail setting with no guarantee of when they are ever going to be free and just waiting around really for their court hearing.”
“They told me that my case has been postponed until the 25th of September and later they also deferred it to the 28th and finally I have the individual hearing. After the hearing , the judge told me that he could not take the decision then. I need to wait until October 12th.”
“I really big frustration for a lot of these detainees at Pearsall is the wait.”
“My lawyer went and the judge said that my asylum is denied.”
"Individuals who have suffered so much trauma in their home country, unfortunately that trauma can become normalized and they don't think to share it with us or to the judge when it's so vital that they do that."
((POP UP BANNER: Simone Koroma has appealed the judge’s decision, a process that will stretch for months.))
"I am tired. I have been in detention for nine months, and spending another eight months in detention will be too disastrous for me."

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery brings in people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
President Trump wants to it.

((Reporter: Mehmet Sumer))
Tezcan Taskiran))
Zdenko Novacki))


“I came to America in 2007 after winning the Green Card lottery. I was a sports photographer in Turkey. One of my friends applied for the Green Card lottery for me and for himself. I won but, unfortunately, he did not. When I first came to America, my English wasn’t good. Working as a house painter in the first months, after being a sports photographer, was a pretty dramatic change for me.
New York City was so big and cosmopolitan, so I was dreaming about moving to a small town and having my own business. The franchising company I was working with was from Houston, Texas.
They told me about El Paso and suggested I move there and open a store. Ever since I first set foot in El Paso, I dreamed about opening a Turkish restaurant here. Our chef is a Turkish guy from New York. He teaches us a lot about Turkish cuisine. Along with Turkish kebabs, we also serve other traditional foods and desserts.
There aren’t so many Turks or Arabs here in El Paso. At first, I was thinking that mostly Mexican citizens would come. But now I have many American customers as well. In fact, 70 to 75 % of my customers are Americans. Since I admire Istanbul, I decided to name our restaurant after the city. I'm happy to be here. In university, one of our professors used to tell us ‘Forget yesterday, know today and live tomorrow’. This is the way I'm trying to live my life.”

Coming up….
Adopted in America
““I was born to a young, single Russian girl. She was 16 when she had me, and just wasn’t able to take care of a disabled baby.”




Becoming Jessica))
((Produced by:
Rana Labs))
((Adapted by:
Martin Secrest))
((JESSICA LONG, Paralympian))

“My name is Jessica Long, and I am a 13-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming, and this is my story. I was actually adopted from Irkutsk, Russia when I was 13 months old.”

“I was born to a young, single Russian girl. She was 16 when she had me, and just wasn’t able to take care of a disabled baby. And I was born with fibular hemimelia, which basically means I was missing both of my lower legs. I had a foot with three toes. But because of my birth defect, she was not able to care for me . So she put me up for adoption. And during this time there was an American couple in Baltimore, Maryland who wanted to grow their family. They already had two children but they weren’t able to have any more. So they looked into adoption, and they were at a church event, and they were asking around if anyone was looking into adoption. And I believe it was that moment that my parents decided to adopt me and another little boy from Russia who later became my brother.”


“My grandparents came to the BWI (Baltimore-Washington International) airport and got us, and drove us all the way to my parents’ home. And my mom walked out of the house and I went right into her arms and Josh just started playing. And we were just welcomed into this new family. It just all worked out. It was totally part of God’s plan is what I believe. And my name was changed from Tatiana to Jessica, Jessica Long.
The first Paralympics I ever competed in was the 2004 Paralympic games in Athens, Greece. And I was 12 years old, and I was not expected to make the team. So there I am, swimming as hard as I can, a little 12 year-old, so tiny. And at the flip turn, at the halfway mark, I was fifth. So I was falling behind. But my parents would tell me the race, they were there, and they said it was amazing to see me come from pretty much last to just touching the world record holder, the current world record holder. And we’re coming neck and neck, and we’re 15 meters out, and I remember saying, I did not come here to get second. And we swim into the wall as hard as we can, and we touch within a tenth of a second. And when you think about that, that’s a fingernail. It was so close, I mean I had to look up at the scoreboard to see who even won. And there it was, a little 1 next to my name, Jessica Long. And I had just out touched the world record holder for the gold medal on my first race ever.
The crowd goes crazy. The first people I looked for were my parents. And I remember being nervous if I could raise my hand in victory or not. But that was the start of it. That one race was the start of my whole career.
And when I was 16, I competed at the Paralympics in Beijing, China. And I won four gold, silver and bronze. And then when I was 20, I competed at the Paralympics in London, England, and I won five gold, two silver and a bronze. And at my last Paralympics, in Rio de Janeiro, I was 24, and I won a gold, three silver and two bronze. And my next step is to compete at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.”
“And at that point, it’s going to be like 18 years of competitive swimming. I’m still keeping my body sharp in the weight room and in swimming. You know, I’ve really learned that I don’t have anything left to prove in the sport of Paralympics. So for me, these next three years, going into Tokyo, it’s really for myself. Tokyo will be my last one, number five, which I think is crazy. But I’m really excited, and I’m going to give it all that I have, in these next three years.
So some things I’m really considering once my swimming career ends . I’m becoming a swim coach, and last year I was a coach for the St. Paul School for Girls swim team. It was so fun just getting to know these little girls, and seeing during difficult sets when they didn’t give up. For me, I’ll be coaching again this year, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Swim on 45, and that’s hard, you’ll be going a little bit fast on that. And then you were going in 30 seconds. So, six times through. Let’s go girls! Let’s go. Keep it up!”
((JESSICA LONG, Paralympian ))
“Right before the London 2012 Paralympics, I opened up with a Russian news station and said, Yeah, you know I think it would be a cool idea to meet my family one day. And little did I know that from that little statement that I said, something that I wanted to do maybe two, three years down the road, the Russian reporter went and found my family.”
“The next year, the following year, is when I went to Russia. I decided to take my little sister Hannah over with me to Russia, and it’s really interesting when I look back. I can see like how incredibly numb I was leading up to Russia. I knew that maybe one day I really wanted to meet my birth mom. It was something that I could really picture. Like I knew of her, this idea of her. But I never thought that years later, that she had married my biological father and that they had the three children, and that I was the oldest. You know, what can prepare you for meeting your birth family? And I was going to Russia, and I didn’t have my security blankets. I was in this different country and I was not really even sure why I was heading over there. But when we did arrive over in Russia finally, it was my first time ever meeting them. It was hard, you know. My first encounter, when I first hugged my mom, it just was very eye opening to see that this could have been my home and my family. I mean, you don’t even know what to think. You’re meeting this family, and she had claimed, my birth mother, Natalia, had talked about how they were planning to come back and get me when I was three years old. But again, this is all through translation, so it was really hard to hear, but at the same time, the whole reason I went back to Russia was I really wanted to meet this family, you know, my birth family. I wanted to let my birth mom know that I was not angry with her. And that no matter what, I was really thankful that she put me up for adoption.”
“There are so many people who need hope in this world, and they need a good role model, and they need something that they are passionate about. And there’s going to be really tough times. And this is something that I say a lot, but when you are given a circumstance that you can’t control, it’s in those moments that you have to look at your situation and just know that you’re going to have a good outcome. With pushing through, and having perseverance, and knowing that no matter what comes your way, that you can overcome it. And I feel like I’m living proof of that. You know I was never, ever expected to go as far as I have.”

Coming up….
Blind Date
“I just simply wanted to tell a story, of men who are able to transcend the beliefs they’ve had all their lives.”



Blind Date))
Kane Farabaugh))
Martin Secrest))
((COURTESY CHYRON throughout for all play scenes: Goodman Theater))

We want nothing more than to leave Afghanistan.
That is what we want too.
"It was a real moment in Cold War history in that no (Soviet) General Secretary after the invasion of Afghanistan had sat across the table from the President of the United States. The word ‘trust’ comes up often in the play. Can we trust you? How can we trust you? How can we trust someone who hated communism so vehemently (Reagan), that suddenly he decides that he wants to have a one-on-one with the General Secretary (Gorbachev)? And so, the first act is a lot about finding that common ground and two people learning to trust one another.”
You invaded Afghanistan as a way to impose socialist ideas on a country that had no interest.
No. No! They asked for our help.
((ROB RILEY, ACTOR (plays Reagan) ))
"I was really thrilled to get the part and you know he’s a really interesting personality, as a person. Put the historical thing to one side. He also was famous for relying on his instincts, but also his principles.”
((NATS, play)
Who do you believe yourself to be?
A lifeguard. Each day, more people are lost, bodies wash up ashore, the threat grows greater, the waters more dangerous.
“I started to write the play, and I realized that Reagan himself was a bit of an enigma. He could pivot, which is a wonderful thing in many politicians. He could change. He followed his own course and his own instincts.”
((NATS, play))
Did you enjoy your time in Hollywood?
You really don’t want to let me walk out that door, do you?
It’s an easy enough question.
This is Hollywood. The American people gave me a four-picture deal.
Mr. Shevardnadze, what does the General Secretary believe will come from these talks?
No comment. No comment.
For a first-timer, he was good.
I will have to check on that.
“I think the lesson is that you have to sit in a room with the opposing force and talk to one another. When you have two striking personalities who are so set in their ways and how they shift and how they change, and how they smile. They become friends.”

Story Corps
Reporting America’s Stories
The Bookmobile))

Storm Reyes grew up in Native American migrant camps across W0ashington state. At eight years old, she began working full-time picking fruit for less than a dollar per hour.))
“The conditions were pretty terrible. I once told someone that I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle. And when you are grinding day after day after day, there is no room in you for hope. You don’t even know it exists. There’s nothing to aspire to except filling your hungry belly. That’s how I was raised. When I was twelve, a bookmobile came to the fields. And you have to understand that I wasn’t allowed to have books, because books are heavy, and when you’re moving a lot, you have to keep things just as minimal as possible. So when I saw this big vehicle on the side of the road, and it was filled with books, I immediately stepped back. Fortunately, when the staff member saw me, he kind of waved me in, and said, “These are books, and you can take one home.” I’m like, “What’s the catch?” And he explained to me there was no catch. Then he asked me what I was interested in.
And the night before the bookmobile had come, in the camps, there was an elder who was telling us about the day that Mount Rainier blew up. So I told the bookmobile person that I was a little nervous about the mountain blowing up. And he said, “You know the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.”
And he gave me a book about volcanoes. And then I saw a book about dinosaurs. I said “Oh, that looks neat.” So he gave me a book about dinosaurs. And I took them home, and I devoured them. I didn’t just read them, I devoured them. And I came back in two weeks and had more questions. And he gave me more books and that started it.
That taught me that hope was not just a word. And it gave me the courage to leave the camps. That’s where the books made the difference. By the time I was 15, I knew there was a world outside of the camps. I believed I could find a place in it. And I did.”
((GFX: Closed book with text and Photo:
Storm Reyes worked at the Pierce County Library near Tacoma, WA for 33 years.))

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