Lincoln's Yazidi Cultural Center works to alleviate disconnect amid immigration and refugee policies and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The center, located at 300 N 27th St., is the headquarters for the nonprofit Yazda and is a place for all Yazidi immigrants and refugees from Iraq who want assistance with adjusting to life in Lincoln.
Lincoln hosts the most Yazidi immigrants anywhere in the United States, according to Logan Gilchrist, a fourth-year political science major. The YCC provides relief for those in need of financial assistance, adjusting to the cultural landscape of the United States, learning English, immigration relief and, now, providing information on the coronavirus.
The center and the Yazidi community struggled a lot because of the pandemic, according to Saad Murad, a board member for the Yazidi Cultural Center. Many lost their jobs, contracted COVID-19 or were forced to quarantine.
“When this happened, the Yazidi community needed more help,” Murad said. “YCC was open for them.”
The Yazidi community still deals with having family over in Iraq who are still in danger after mass killings and a genocide in Iraq, Murad said. People await safely meeting their families because of the pandemic, but the Yazidi community has to deal with travel bans and immigration issues on top of that.
Murad said the Islamic State group killed his younger brother and many of his relatives — a tragedy shared by many Yazidis.
“I think we need to work with this new administration to advocate to bring [home] those people who were left behind,” he said.
Gilchrist interns for the center and said the current political climate has largely impacted the center.
“The Trump administration had placed a lot of restrictions on refugees coming over and immigration in general,” Gilchrist said, “when COVID[-19] hit, and now there are additional travel restrictions. It makes it even more difficult.”
With every new political administration, Murad said there will be new challenges, and it will be hard to adjust financially. The center encourages the Yazidi community to learn about voting and using their right to vote as soon as they can.
They provide information on candidates and how each one will affect the process of immigration and applying for a green card.
The center also works to ensure the Yazidi community feels confident in day-to-day actions living in the United States, Murad said. YCC wants Lincoln to understand and support Yazidis and their culture, and workers provide educational services as well.
“They have different classes for their native language, Yazidi holidays and history, culture and tradition and also teach especially younger members who come over and maybe didn’t learn all of that back in Iraq and keeping that kind of traditions and stuff alive in younger generations even though they grow up here in Lincoln,” Gilchrist said.
But as with the rest of the center, some of those classes were suspended because of COVID-19 or have been complicated as a result of the pandemic.
Gilchrist is working around Give to Lincoln Day for the center and encourages anyone who can to donate to the center and volunteer with them. Give to Lincoln Day is a great time to get to know all of the nonprofits in Lincoln and learn about the holidays and culture the Yazidi community has to offer, according to Gilchrist.
“Next month is going to be Give to Lincoln day, which is where all the nonprofits sort of around Lincoln, they have this city event where you can donate money to a nonprofit who has a cause that you care about, and that money will get matched by the city,” Gilchrist said.
Individuals who want to help the Yazidi Cultural Center can volunteer or spread awareness about Yazidi culture, Gilchrist said. The center is also accepting donations for Give to Lincoln Day.