Building on New Foundations > New Strategies, New Organizations

Chicago

Hatem Abudayyeh

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Director, Arab American Action Network

The Arab American Action Network (A3N) was founded in 1995 as a way of building new alliances between more established residents and more recent immigrants. Arab American community centers have traditionally carried out social service work, but it was never institutionalized.

Following the first Gulf War in the early 1990s there was an influx of new immigrants, which created a new need for services. We try to combine social services with advocacy and youth programs. We offer an after school program, a summer leadership academy for high-school students, and a summer camp for elementary school students.

More established residents tended to be active in Palestine solidarity movement; A3N was a way for them to respond to the changing needs of Chicago’s Palestinian immigrant community.

We began with a single grant for youth work. We’ve grown until now [mid-2003] we have four full-time and three part-time staff positions. We also offer programs geared to the needs of women immigrants, such as English as a Second Language, as well as education in the US political system and gaining access to public benefits. We also partner with local immigrant rights coalitions to translate information into Arabic — and to help interpret and advocate for clients who are trying to access medical care, housing, employment, public benefits, and other services.

Many of us are also involved in antiwar efforts and Palestine solidarity work. It’s not part of our organizational mission, but it is a part of our community. The Arab community in Chicago is predominantly Palestinian and predominantly immigrants. We need to be accountable to them.