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Downtown Clarkston in DeKalb County extends westward from Rowland Street to Indian Creek Drive, with the old Georgia Railroad line running in between—a total of just three city blocks, give or take. And yet there may be no place in the country as kaleidoscopically, vibrantly, viscerally diverse.
Not long after the Clarkston’s community center opened, the staff recognized that older refugees face unique hurdles in adapting to a different culture. “They’re the last [in the family] to get any kind of services,” says director Cindy Bowden. “They’re the last to learn English. They’re the last to get involved in the community. It’s important to offer them an avenue to belonging.”
In the end, it had taken almost two years for Amin’s application to the United Nations for refugee status to be approved, during which time Aleppo had collapsed, family members died, and Amin forced himself not to surrender hope.
To refugees fleeing oppression, civil war, famine, and discrimination, Atlanta represents not just hope, but survival. And within the metro area, no place has been more welcoming than the city of Clarkston, which sits halfway between Decatur and Stone Mountain.
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Two years ago, I was waiting at LaGuardia Airport for a flight back to Atlanta when I noticed a group of fellow passengers, clearly South Asians, clumped together at the gate and looking flustered. Each, including infants and a few elderly, had tags around their necks, and the adults carried identical plastic bags.
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