New York has long been called the "melting pot" of the world and yet the diverse communities that share the same streets are often worlds apart. This is nowhere more true than with the newly arrived Arab peoples and their American neighbors. Differences of religion, language, culture and dress accentuate the distance between the communities.
Brooklyn, New York has the second largest concentration of Arab people in the United States. The community of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn alone has an Arab population of over two hundred thousand people from many countries.
The Brooklyn Arab American Friendship Center (BAAFC), located in Bay Ridge, has been in operation since 2004 and serves as a bridge between those who often have little or no way to meaningfully interact with each other. By reaching out in a practical way to meet the felt needs of newcomers, American volunteers gain respect and friendship, while losing fear and distrust of Arab people. The students in turn discover that all Americans are not alike and have the opportunity to not only receive practical help in adjusting to a new society, but personal support through caring friends.
The BAAFC now occupies a facility on the busy shopping street of 5th Avenue with two classrooms, a well-equipped playroom and support spaces. Volunteers teach classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), Computer classes, GED preparation and U.S. citizenship preparation. These group times are designed to foster additional social times outside the BAAFC, where cultural gaps can be bridged and sharing of hearts can occur.
Our desire is to make a positive difference in people's lives. We are grateful for the many friendships that have developed over the years between staff and students. We appreciate the support of all those who have stood with us and encourage others to join us in making a real difference in real lives.