AC16_LOGO_RGB300x300The APALA President’s program, co-sponsored by IRRT and REFORMA, “From Vietnam to Syria: Refugees, their Stories, and Needs” explores the many parallels between the refugee crisis during the Vietnam War, the current crisis in the Middle East, and refugees crossing the Southern border of the United States. The program will include: stories from Vietnamese Americans about resettling in the local Orlando area from Krsytle and Thuy Vincent Nguyen; an overview of the work of REFORMA’s “Children in Crisis Task Force” from Ady Huertas and Oralia Garza de Cortés; information about the Syrian refugee crisis from Laila Hussain Moustafa; and tips and strategies for helping libraries and librarians to serve refugee communities from Touger Vang.


Today, Oralia Garza de Cortés shares a little bit about herself and her work as Co-Chair of REFORMA’s “Children in Crisis Task Force” which provides books, resources, and support for children being held in US detention centers with APALA Vice President/President-Elect, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada.


Oralia2Lessa Pelayo-Lozada (LPL): Introduce yourself! What’s your name? Where do you live? What do you do and what are you passionate about?


Oralia Garza de Cortés (OGC): Hola! Hello! I’m Oralia Garza de Cortés and I divide my time between Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California. I’m passionate about justice and equity of access to books, library services and book publishing. Books and libraries are the great American equalizer and everyone everywhere deserve access to these valuable tools and institutions.


LPL:  In June, you’ll be speaking at the APALA President’s Program in Orlando, entitled ““From Vietnam to Syria: Refugees, their Stories, and Needs”. Is there anything you’d like people to know before they hear you speak?


OGC: Refugee children from Central America are among America’s most vulnerable children. As they make their way through our American cities, they risk becoming even more invisible. They deserve a chance at childhood –a chance to learn and grow and develop fully.  Let’s demonstrate our compassion and our humanity. Let’s work to insure their future through books and library services that matter.


LPL: Name a few ways you’ve seen (or think) that libraries, librarians, and their institutions can support refugees. What kind of role can we fill?


OGC: The refugee children from Central America need access to books and stories that can spark their imagination, help them to reflect their migration experience, and offer up hope for a better future.  But as librarians we must also think about their information needs. They are in dire need of legal information that can help them to mitigate against a complicated legal system mired with regulations and policies stacked against them.  It’s the least we can do to help them meet their obligations and save them from potential deportation proceedings.


To learn more about REFORMA’s “Children in Crisis” task Force, visit!about_us/csgz or join us at ALA Annual in Orlando on Saturday, June 25, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in Orange County Convention Center W103B.


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