CIFF45 Streams: Global Cleveland is a Community Partner for the film Welcome Strangers

Tickets to the 45th Cleveland International Film Festival are now on sale! Global Cleveland is a #CIFF45Streams Community Partner in support of the film, Welcome Strangers. Use our discount code GLOBAL and you will receive $1 off the purchase of a ticket. Most films are available nationwide, so make plans to support independent film and its filmmakers: https://www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2021/welcome-strangers


Small Business Feature | ButterPear

What is ButterPear? 

ButterPear started in 2017 as a grassroots effort to raise funds in Liberia, West Africa for student education fees K-12. Becky Trout launched ButterPear as a way for her friends and family to support small businesses of Liberian artists to help send their children to school and to develop a customer base that connected her community straight to the artists who make their goods. Throughout the years it has grown to not only a fair-trade social enterprise but also a way for the Refugee and Immigrant community in Cleveland to connect with their culture back in their home countries. 
 

How does ButterPear impact refugees living in Cleveland? 

ButterPear slowly morphed into a maker-space e-commerce store for not only artists in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Mali, but also here with refugees in Cleveland. We’ve been able to fundraise for specific needs that our refugee community in Cleveland raises awareness for. Being able to have artists create items that ultimately support their small business all while the profits support their own communities has been ButterPears number one goal. 

In 2020, ButterPear was able to hire 8 refugee women in Cleveland to sew masks. We were able to produce over 5,000 masks hand sewn to be purchased all while donating 3,000 more masks, $1500 in food relief in Liberia and Congo, and rent relief for a few families facing difficulties. Here are a few of our sewing sisters who helped lead the way! 

https://www.cleveland19.com/2020/05/03/african-refugee-sisters-sewing-masks-cleveland-company-during-coronavirus-pandemic/ 

“We all know we are helping, it’s not that we are just trying to make money,” said Victoire Pilipilian artist that worked to create masks.  

What have you (Becky Trout, founder of ButterPear) learned from the creation of this business, and the amazing women that contribute? 

What I’ve learned from all of the amazing women we work with is that they will get the job done not only to completion but with excellence. I am always amazed at the creativity and drive behind each of the women we come in contact with. All are mothers, caregivers, business owners and they find ways to come together to create the most amazing items. There is a different sense of pride when it comes to showcasing their work. I love that I can not only know directly who these items come from but also know that the woman who made my baskets is paving the way for her daughter to become her own businesswoman as well. It makes that basket so much more valuable. There’s always a knock-off item, but there’s only one that comes straight from the source that’s going to lead the way. There’s an old African proverb I heard a lot in Liberia,  

If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate village 

Hearing that old proverb and seeing it be put into action with the women we work with across the world and here in Cleveland has been why ButterPear exists. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Leen Ajlouni

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I was born in Amman, Jordan. I came to the US for the first time around 7 years ago to pursue my undergraduate studies at an all-women’s institution called Smith College. I moved to Cleveland the day after I graduated from Smith and have lived here for almost three years now. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

I recently read a quote by a psychiatrist and best-selling author Dr. Scott Peck that resonated with me. He says “Life is difficult. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” I bring up this quote because it reminds me that the largest challenge in my journey so far has been not succumbing to the voice that says something is too difficult for me and that I should settle for less. I’ve seen myself shine brightest when I accept that something is difficult but set sail to take this challenge head-on.  

I think for many of us, fighting this internal, criticizing, self-pitying, self-doubting voice is the biggest hurdle to self-actualization. For those of us who feel as though we are paving our own path – whether personally, professionally or both – this voice can either paralyze our abilities to get there or empower and push us forward to the finish line. It’s ultimately our choice to hear the voice that we want to become. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

I feel very fortunate that at every step of my journey, I have been supported by a woman who believed in me and pushed me to do the uncomfortable. These women did not just celebrate my successes and empathized with me on my setbacks, but they were most influential to me because they gave me honest, critical advice when I needed it, helped me acknowledge my blind spots and shortcomings and pushed me to my true limits. One of my female mentors in Cleveland, for example, recently helped me realize that like many other women in the workspace, I can come off as being “over-apologetic”. Perhaps these scenarios sound familiar to you — saying sorry before speaking up in a meeting, getting permission before asking a question, using a lot of “thank you’s” in your emails to make them sound kinder. My one piece of advice to women is to notice yourself in moments where you are over-apologizing and over-thanking and to stop yourself. You deserve to ask your question; you deserve to speak up in a meeting; you deserve to sit at the table, and you don’t need to apologize or thank anyone for what you deserve.  Remember that you do not owe anyone but yourself the right to take up space and reclaim your power.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

There are many international women in the greater Cleveland community who have moved mountains in their personal and professional journeys. There are also international women who absolutely have the potential to move mountains but lack the support, resources, and connections. Global Cleveland has played an important role in connecting these women altogether, but there is a lot more work to do. I can personally say that the most influential mentors to me have been international women who can relate to my story and challenges. The more we can bridge the two generations, the more success we can unlock. I am currently working in the field of Venture Capital, and I have yet to meet another Middle Eastern born-and-raised young female working in the field, not only in Cleveland but the US at large. In fact, perhaps if I did, I would have intentionally gone out to pursue this field knowing that I, too, can get here. Fortunately, a combination of luck, warm connections, and being at the right place at the right time worked in my favor, but the odds to have not entered the field were significantly higher. I want other young Middle Eastern women in this country to know that they, too, can enter the white-male-dominated field of Venture Capital and that we actually need more women like them in this field so that more Middle Eastern women entrepreneurs get Venture Capital funds. In a time and place where humans rely on connections and the power of networks, we need to amplify the work that organizations like Global Cleveland are setting to do by creating a strong network of generations of international women who have, can, and will move mountains with the help, guidance, and support of one another. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Radhika Reddy

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from), and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

Born in Kakinada, India but from Hyderabad India. Lived in Cleveland for 31 years. 

The pioneers and supporters of international women’s day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

Being an immigrant from India with an accent created cultural differences and misunderstandings, which has been the biggest challenge for me. However, I turned the cultural differences to advantage by partnering with women from different cultures, combining the best of the eastern and western values, to create a socially-minded, 100% women-owned entrepreneurial business in real estate public-private finance and development, that helps transform low-income neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio and nationally. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

Develop inner confidence to be your true authentic self, and if in business, partner with others who have complementing strengths and shared values, work as a team, as we are stronger together than alone 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

Similar to the efforts of Global Cleveland in the recognition and showcasing of the successes of international women, to show support and amplify the message that immigrant women who have come to this country, are building businesses, creating jobs, and giving back to the community in their adopted country. 


International Women’s Month Feature | Supriya Tamang

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was there until I graduated from College. I came to Cleveland in Jan 2017 to pursue my master’s degree and have been a year since then – more than 4 years now.   

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

If not all, most women face this challenge in their life i.e., having to prove yourself to others again and again and it was/is one of the biggest challenges that I had to face as well. For me, I had to prove myself to my parents so that I can gain their trust to support me for whatever I choose to pursue in life. Many may not understand this but growing up in a patriarchal society with all the stereotypes, they were always skeptical about any contrasting ideas I presented. After a lot of pushback and time, they were convinced that I am capable of doing things my own way and it is absolutely fine.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world? 

It is an honor to be nominated for this recognition. I am still learning from everyone and the only thing I want to tell is to believe in yourself and never put yourself down. If you don’t believe in your own ability or to make decisions yourself, then no one will. There will be instances that will make you question yourself; your belief and you will make many mistakes, but it is all a learning process – that is how you become wiser and strongerAlso, support other women – make each other understand the value we all bring to this world.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

 It all comes down to “Practice what you preach”. We hear everyone talking about women empowerment, welcoming internationals and supporting the marginalized community but when we look into the work that is actually done is comparatively lesser. Representation matters a lot – having women of diverse backgrounds as a part of your organization and community makes a huge difference in shaping the City of Cleveland. 

On the other hand, rather than focusing on the superficial level, looking for rooted problems and finding solutions to those problems is more consequential. We can always support, fund or volunteer to the organizations in Cleveland that are working on the issues that significantly affect women, internationals and marginalized communities.    


International Women’s Month Feature | Rose Dostal

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I am a first-generation immigrant, born in the Philippines, and have lived in Cleveland since I was 14.  I was quite young when my parents emigrated from their native land to Canada for a couple of years and then to the Cleveland area. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

There were certainly many challenges we faced as a new arrival. While I know this essay is supposed to be about my journey, I admire my mother so much that maybe you can indulge me in writing briefly about her challenging journey that so clearly shaped my immigrant story. 

I suppose my mother and I are very much alike, though I wouldn’t dare think that I could compare the path to my profession to the hardship that she had to undergo managing being a young physician, mother and wife. Frankly, she has never had anyone tell her to this day how awe-inspiring she is. 

I asked her recently if she had experienced any hardships when she first arrived as a practicing physician. Her answer was an unequivocal “No!” While her response was not surprising, I would beg to differ with her as I know the road to her professional success in the US was full of obstacles that needed to be overcome. Arriving in a foreign land, she and my father, himself a civil engineer, had to raise seven young children all the while attempting to restart their careers in a new homeland. Her reply to me, dismissing any thought of the difficult challenges, is so typical of how she led her life. She just did what she had to do with no complaints or excuses.  

But truth to be told, it was not at all easy for her. Prior to arriving to the Americas, she was a registered, licensed, practicing physician in the Philippines for many years. But upon entering to the states, she had to start over and re-take her internship, residency, fellowship, pass board certification, and more medical education. Can you imagine going through this once again while you’re raising a large family? She did not complain. But rather, she embraced the challenge. She loved what she did. She chose to follow the rules and charge forward.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

I suppose this is where I can start talking about myself. I think this sense of yearning to do what I love is what drives me. While I may not have had to demonstrate that same level of courage she did, I certainly have inherited her drive to succeed. I tend to ignore the hurdles. Oh, believe me at times, I would rather have avoided roadblocks placed in front of me. But having my mother as my role model, I pushed ahead. I was a late bloomer, professionally speaking. I didn’t really get serious about my career until I was 23 years old. That was when I decided it was time to take college seriously. Enrolled in the School of Architecture at OSU, I was one of maybe a handful or so of women in a class of 100 or so fledgling architects. In the field of architecture, racial and ethnic diversity and gender equity were not part of the social conversation when I first started my career. Rather, I hoped to lead by example, working closely with women architecture and design students and interns now for years. I can only hope that the women I mentored over the years have had some impact and they are also forging ahead.  

I want to say that even during the early days of my career when there wasn’t a conscious effort in the industry to elevate women, I always felt the need to lead by example. I chose early to share my insight and experience and, importantly, offer an opportunity to a young woman as they began their design careers, hoping that they, like me, would try to make a difference, to Choose to Challenge! 


International Women’s Month Feature | Denique “Neeky” Dennis

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Jamaica and have lived in Cleveland for 2 years this summer! 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

One challenge to my personal success is defining what “personal success” even is! As a Black, immigrant, young adult woman from a less-than-privileged background, I often wrestle with the tension between personal versus collective success. It is sometimes difficult to identify and cultivate my true-to-self goals while advancing those of my community. This is particularly true of navigating double consciousness as a professional in the social justice arena. I find myself regularly asking “Who do I need to be for myself?” closely followed by “Who do I need to be for my community?” (however ‘community’ is defined in the moment). 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world? 

You are enough and you are deserving of good things. Holding these statements as truth really makes a difference in how you show up! 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

You can support international women by welcoming us into your communities and cultivating spaces that celebrate our diversity. 

 


International Women’s Month Feature | Lisa Blanchard

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I was born in St. Lucia and moved to Cleveland in 2012. 

What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

A major area of growth was to learn how to acknowledge and share my accomplishments and successes. There was a lot of messaging (intentional and otherwise) about being humble, being seen and not heard, quietly working hard and waiting for “your turn”. I had to unlearn some of that. People won’t necessarily see that you’re doing fantastic work – you have to ensure your work has the right exposure.  Your work will speak for itself, but it has to have the platform and voice! 

What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

Your work will speak for itself, but it has to have the platform and voice!  No one benefits when you play small. Your unique talents are needed and the whole community loses if we don’t get to see you shine.

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?   

We can provide spaces and platforms that are inclusive and accessible. I know that’s very general and a tall order, but we have to be able to move from special spaces for special groups, to fully integrating these groups with “mainstream” platforms. We have to ask the hard questions about who gets access and how we reach out to groups we see less of. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Margarita Krncevic

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from), and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in El Salvador, Central America, and came to the U.S. when I was 5 without speaking any English. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

Thanks to ESOL, I was bilingual within 6 months. When my family moved to the Washington, D.C. area, it was before the civil war had started in El Salvador, and there was not a large Salvadoran community to absorb us. In hindsight, this was a blessing. Because, although we held onto our culture and language, we did not retreat into it. As a result, my family had the opportunity to experience many of the international cultures present in the D.C. area. I grew up having close friends from many different ethnicities and grew up trying foods from other countries and listening to foreign languages that, although I did not understand, appreciated, nonetheless. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

My advice is to always expand your world – even when travel is restricted, you can experience other cultures through learning another language, reading books, taking cooking classes, or even attending one of Cleveland’s many cultural festivals. The bigger your world – the greater the opportunities for success.

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

Like D.C. (where I grew up), Cleveland is a city rich with many proud, ethnic populations that have been here for generations and have much to offer. By celebrating our unique backgrounds, without focusing negatively on our differences, I believe that Cleveland, Ohio can truly become a microcosm of a world-class international city.  


Small Business Feature | Kiwi Wongpeng of Thai Thai

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from?), and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Bangkok, Thailand. I came to the United States in 2000 and I have lived in Cleveland for 16 years. 

What is the name and location of your business, and a brief description?   

Thai Thai is a restaurant in Lakewood. We serve traditional Thai “Bangkok Street Food” and Bubble Tea. 

Lastly, please provide any social media handles that we can add! 

Instagram: @thaithailakewood
Facebook: Thai Thai 

Tell me about the inception of your business! Why did you choose to open Thai Thai? Take me through the creative process! 

My family has been in the restaurant business for a long time. I wanted to create something different- yet modern, easy, and fun. I decided to introduce Bangkok street food to Clevelanders. Every dish on our menu is very flavorful and authentic. These are the types of dishes that my mother makes for us at home. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in building your business? 

My biggest challenge was to give the community unique Thai Bangkok street food in hopes that they would enjoy the food that my mother and I had served them. Another challenge was moving into a brand new, larger location during the early days of a pandemic. 

How does your business enhance your community? What does it introduce to people, or what can people learn from it? 

Lakewood/Cleveland is a very diverse city. I always introduce different aspects of Thai and Asian cultures to my community. I believe in supporting other local small businesses, as they are owned and operated by my neighbors. We love and care about the well-being of our community and those in it. 

Additional info: I am the founder of Unknown Cleveland on Instagram. This page where I introducing and putting a spotlight on the creative and inspiring people that make our city a better place to live in.