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World Refugee Day

June 20 is World Refugee Day, when people from around the world are supposed to take some time to try to understand what refugees go through when they leave a country and seek refuge in another.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 25.4 million refugees around the world, more than half of whom are under 18, and more than 44,000 people a day are forced to leave their homes because of conflict and

persecution. Nearly 25,000 refugees resettled in the United States in 2017.

Winnie Bulaya, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo and took refuge in Kenya for about 12 years before coming to the United States in 2010, said she struggled at first coming to a new continent, and she couldn't talk about the war that forced her to leave her home country without tearing up.

When she's not working as a janitor at IUPUI, Bulaya spends much of her spare time helping others who are transitioning to a new life in America, and she still sends some money from her tax returns back to the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the construction of a church. But she added actions mean more than money.

"It's not about the money," Bulaya said. "Even with a little, you can do something big to help someone."

This year's theme for World Refugee Day is "Step with Refugees," where people can walk or run and count their miles toward a global total at The UN Human Rights Council's goal is to get to 1 billion miles. Participants can create fundraising pages to encourage friends and family to participate, or they can donate directly.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Former refugee has found her calling by helping others who are new to America

As a refugee who came to America from Africa nearly a decade ago, Winnie Bulaya understands the struggles people face when they come the states with a language barrier, few connections if any and a feeling of isolation. Bulaya, 47, wanted to do something to help those people, most of whom come here with families they need to take care of.

She was here for only two weeks when she started helping immigrants, and her compassion has evolved over time to an operation of mostly direct charity, including household items such as laundry detergent. She founded Refugee Welcome Baskets, which is exactly what it sounds like: New immigrants get a laundry basket full of goods such as paper towels and hygiene products.

"When I meet someone from a different country, I start by saying, 'Me, I'm like you.'" Bulaya said. "And then they'll be quick to be open to me because the person understands

immediately that this person understands me."

Bulaya works full time as a janitor at IUPUI. It's been her line of work since she came to the United States from Kenya in 2010 and started working as a maid at a hotel. Bulaya was fleeing war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Author Pauline Kurtz wrote a book about Bulaya — "Winnie's Saga: Fleeing the Congolese War" — which published in April and is on Amazon for $8.95. Proceeds go to help Bulaya buy the supplies for her welcome baskets.

Bulaya said there are some weeks where she does something to help an immigrant family every day. It's not uncommon for her to be spontaneous about it. She'll just happen to meet someone who's in need, or a friend recommends someone who could use some help.

"If you like something, you will find the time," she said.

Bulaya estimated she's helped about 100 families so far, but that's more than she could do on her own. She's been working with local churches to expand her reach.

Furaha Mmbiya came from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United State with her family in 2016 and, like many people who are new to the country, needed help. Bulaya worked with a church in Zionsville to raise $500 for Mmbiya, who lives on the west side.

"She does something we always appreciate," Mmbiya, 33, said with Bulaya translating. "[She brings] laundry soap, welcome baskets, clothes. Without knowing us, she gave it to us." Bulaya also helps around Christmas time, buying coats and jackets for children whose parents can't afford to. Sharmirah Gaha, a 7-year-old girl who lives with her family on the west side, got excited when asked how she feels when Bulaya comes around.

It makes her feel "happy," Gaha said with a smile, "because I get a lot of things. My mom always prays to God to make everybody happy." Gaha, whose family came to American from Ethiopia, said her mother believes Bulaya is the answer to those prayers.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Finalists for IPS superintendent position take questions from the school board

The three finalists vying to become the next superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools made their case June 18 to the school board and community for why they should be selected to lead the state's largest school district.

Devon Horton, chief of schools for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, Aleesia Johnson, interim superintendent of IPS, and Larry Young Jr., assistant superintendent of Elementary Education for Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, had 15 minutes to deliver an opening presentation and then took questions for 45 minutes from the board.

The community had time in the weeks leading up to the public interviews to submit questions. Board President Michael O'Connor said 112 questions were sent in. Topics ranged widely, but the main themes included charter and innovation schools, race equity, communication and funding.

The board plans to announce the next superintendent by the end of the month. The position opened when former superintendent Lewis Ferebee left for the same position with D.C. Public Schools.

Charter and innovation schools

Horton was friendly to the district's model for charter schools and Innovation Network Schools, which are managed by outside operators, and had ideas about how to improve the system.

He said in his presentation he thinks most of the innovation schools are doing fine, but he doesn't think restarting a school as an innovation schools is working for the district. Horton, who was hired to his current position in part because of his reputation for turning schools around, said that is where he could step in and make innovation schools stronger.

Citing his past experience in school districts in Chicago and St. Louis, Horton said he would prefer to keep struggling schools under district control and give them additional resources, including financial incentives to retain teachers.

Young said he's neither pro-nor anti-charter and innovation schools. He said he instead cares about providing "quality choices" for students and finding models of education that work and can be replicated to other schools.

"I'm not stuck on that," Young said of the debate over charter and innovation schools.

Johnson, who started working for IPS in 2015 as the innovation officer, has been supportive of charter and innovation schools and indicated she wouldn't deviate from that path, although she added there isn't just one way to address those schools.

Race equity

Johnson, who became the first African American woman to lead the district when she took over as interim superintendent, said her many identities have informed the work she's done in education. With a picture of dead fish floating in a lake on her presentation slide, she pointed out that Black students are typically overrepresented in negative outcomes and underrepresented in positive outcomes.

"That's not a problem with the students. That's not a problem with the fish. That's a problem with the lake," she said, adding that school systems can act as enablers of systemic racism.

Johnson said she would expand racial equity work to eliminate opportunity gaps and address institutional bias. Johnson said she believes the district can cut its achievement gap in half by 2023.

Young said he collected school and district data in preparation for his interview and noticed students of color and students living in poverty don't score as well on standardized tests and don't graduate at the same rates as their peers from a higher socio-economic status.

Like Johnson, Young said the school system is partly to blame for systemic racism and added that the same is true of standardized tests.

Horton also talked about disparities between Black and white students in education outcomes and the opportunities they're given in schools. He said he would create a racial equity policy for the district. Horton said he would try to replicate a teacher residency program like the one he had in St. Louis to recruit diverse teachers.


As IPS has undergone its transformation to include different school types, critics often point to communication between the district and the community as an issue. Johnson said she and the district as a whole learned about the importance of communication during that time, when she was innovation officer. She said she's been meeting with parents one-on-one and in groups since she's been interim superintendent to get feedback.

Horton said improving communication would be one of his goals as superintendent and said he would like principals to go on Facebook Live regularly so they can interact with parents and the rest of the community. Horton also suggested a "state of the district" where school leaders could update the community on their goals for the district and even raise money for scholarships.

Young talked more about internal communication and said he's learned from giving feedback to teachers who were also getting feedback from other administrators. He said he would create a profile for each teacher and would make their evaluations relative to their years of experience, since he believes it wouldn't be fair to expect a new teacher to be at the same level as a veteran teacher.


Horton congratulated district leaders for securing millions of dollars more in funding after an operating referendum and capital referendum passed in the November 2018 elections. He said one thing he would consider as superintendent is trying to reduce the size of the district, not necessarily by closing schools but cutting back on the space IPS takes up in the city.

Young touted the success Pike Township schools have had in building up a reserve and rainy-day fund. He said he would create a process to evaluate every program and initiative and cut those that aren't being uti lized or aren't effective. Young also oversees athletics and wellness from his position with Pike Township schools and said that's saved the district more than $100,000 in salary and benefits.

Johnson repeatedly emphasized the need to allocate resources equitably throughout the district but said some "hard decisions" might need to be made when it comes to shifting resources between schools as the district goes through a slight uptick in enrollment.

"Our budget is really a reflection of our priorities," she said.

She said principals should have more autonomy when it comes to how they use resources for their schools, since one school's needs may not perfectly align with another.

Go to to learn more about the finalists.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Walk, ride and camp to support cancer patients

Fighting cancer is not only about research to find a cure. It's also about supporting patients who often need financial assistance, guidance through the health care system and emotional relief. Helping local nonprofits address these needs is the focus of 24 Indianapolis.

A local affiliate of the national organization 24 Foundation, 24 Indianapolis is a noncompetitive biking and walking event and will be 7 p.m. June 28 to 7 p.m. June 29 on Butler University's campus. This year marks the eighth year of 24 Indianapolis, which started as a biking only event and eventually added a walking component.

Participants raise money from friends and family beforehand then have access to a walking or biking path. The event is a fun way to support patient navigation and survivorship programs for cancer patients.

"We really just love the fact that we are supporting cancer survivors and helping them navigate with their families and just really touching the lives of individuals that are affected by cancer," Nanci Bonfield, 24 Foundation's Regional Director of Indiana, said.

In addition to cycling and walking, affectionately known as ride or stride, Bonfield said the 24 hours contain fun events such as a pizza party at midnight, yoga at sunrise and bands playing throughout the event. There are also themed hours for walkers and riders to wear funny costumes such as tutu hour.

"People really enjoy the tutu hour, especially," Bonfield said. "Some of our gentlemen put their tutus on and it's super fun."

There will also be stations where participants can interact with various organizations they raise money for such as Franciscan Health's Moving Beyond program and Casting for Recovery. Moving Beyond is a 12-week program for people in remission that offers health, nutrition, financial and intimacy counseling as well as other classes.

Casting for Recovery takes breast cancer patients on a free fly fishing trip. The goal of the trip is to not only be

a fun distraction but also a way for breast cancer patients to meet and connect with others going through the same difficulties.

"For some women who live in the more rural parts in Indiana, our retreats are the very first time they've ever spoken to another breast cancer survivor," Cindy Day, a volunteer for Casting for Recovery, said. "There's a lot of discussion that goes on at those retreats outside of fly fishing. ... Those classmates stay in touch with each other."

Day believes current discussions on cancer too frequently neglect patients' emotional needs, noting that there were no accessible navigation or emotional programs when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. That is why Day attended 24 Indianapolis two years in a row and plans to again this year. Day, who registers alongside her children and grandchildren, said their goal is to raise as much money as possible — they raised $5,000 in 2018. Day's family enjoys camping at 24 Indianapolis, so they participate in as much of the 24 hours as possible. Day believes this is the best way to get the most out of participating.

"Try to spend as much time there as you can," Day said. "Just take it all in, go to the tables and find out how the money is being used. ... Take advantage of being outdoors. Bring your friends. Bring your family. There's something for everybody."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

24 Indianapolis

Ride or stride to change the course of cancer. Join a team or create your own to raise money for cancer survivors.

When: 7 p.m. June 28 to 7 p.m. June 29 (Staying the full 24 hours isn't mandatory.)

Where: Butler University, 4600 Sunset Ave.

More Information: 704-365-4417, or contactus@24foundation. org

Registration and fundraising requirements for 24 Indianapolis:

Adult Riders (ages 18 and older)

Registration fee: $50 Fundraising minimum: $200

Youth Riders (ages 12-17)

Registration fee: $45

Fundraising minimum: $100

Child Riders (ages 8-11)

Registration fee: $30

Fundraising minimum: $50

Adult Walkers (ages 18 and older)

Registration fee: $50

Fundraising minimum: $200

Youth Walkers (ages 12-17)

Registration fee: $45

Fundraising minimum: $100

Child Walkers (ages 8-11)

Registration fee: $30

Fundraising minimum: $50