The Journal Gazette
Monday, June 03, 2019 1:00 am

Five questions for Irene Paxia

Director, Amani Family Services

1 What's the mission of Amani Family Services?

Amani's mission is to partner with immigrant and refugee families and the community to promote safety, encourage personal growth, and foster a spirit of belonging. Amani Family Services is the only organization in Allen County whose mission is devoted solely to the service of immigrant and refugee families, in partnership with the state of Indiana and the community.


2 What's the greatest challenge facing the community's immigrants and refugees?

Immigrants and refugees face many challenges, many of which are based on their path to immigration. Immigrants who move to the U.S. with employment visas face different challenges than refugees who are are resettling due to displacement. However, common challenges many immigrants and refugees face include navigating language barriers, learning unspoken cultural rules or traditions, accessing services such as health care, and finding connections in the community.


3 Your organization's growth has necessitated new office space. Where will it be and what will the new space allow you to do?

The new building, which was generously donated by Parkview Health, is located at 5104 N. Clinton St. The new building will allow Amani to serve families better through new visitation rooms, play and cooking space for parents and children, and increased privacy. The environment will be trauma-informed allowing for sensitive delivery of care to survivors of trauma. The new building will also have a new training room that will allow for more educational sessions on cross-cultural communication, violence prevention, and integration for residents, agencies, and businesses

It will also allow local agencies to share the space to connect to non-English speaking community members (for example, Amani will support the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous groups in Karen, Burmese, and other languages). Overall, we hope the new building will be the central location in Allen County for all immigrants and refugees to connect, find resources, and learn more about life in the United States.


4 Why is it important to support immigrant and refugee residents?

It's important to support immigrants and refugees because they are a vital part of our community.

Families from around the world enrich our community by sharing their arts, culture, education, and professional skills. Immigrant and refugee families are responsible for a significant amount of growth in the Fort Wayne area and they help support and grow our local economy.

As an active refugee resettlement community, Allen County has a significant need for services for immigrants and refugees. In many cases, the immigrant and refugee families Amani serves have fled terrible conditions in their homelands that are beyond their control. Many have come from war-torn countries and are seeking safety and freedom in the United States as they leave authoritarian regimes or conditions of extreme poverty. All are seeking to build a better life for themselves and their families. Individuals forced to flee their homeland and resettle in another country experience factors which exacerbate psychological distress and thwart efforts of healing and self-sufficiency.

Immigrants, refugees, and non-English speaking individuals are underserved for many reasons including language barriers, cultural traditions resistant to seeking help, fear of re-victimization by law enforcement, a tradition of male dominance preventing women and children from reporting abuse, and fear of public shame. Amani fills a gap in services for these families by providing appropriate, culturally sensitive family services which remove the barriers that may prevent immigrants and refugees from finding the help they need.


5 How can the community support your efforts?

The community can support Amani's efforts through donations to our capital campaign, sharing information about Amani's services, or donating items listed on our Needs List by visiting

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