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Africa Support Team becomes Inland NW African Cultural Assn.

Because it can be hard for someone who grew up in Africa, especially for refugees, to adjust to life in Spokane, the informal Africa Support Team formed four years ago is formalizing itself as the Inland Northwest African Cultural Association.

The support team, founded Mary Lou McDonnough before she retired as volunteer coordinator of World Relief Services, has been a link for African refugees for friendships, assistance, mutual support, resources for newcomers about America and information for the Spokane community about African cultures.

Leaders of the new association are Rwandan Evaristo Mulindangwe and Ethiopian Agwa Taka.

The Rev. Lawrence Hudson, pastor of First Covenant Church, helped the group create by-laws and structure, because the association will exist under the umbrella of Immanuel Urban Ministries, a nonprofit organization spearheaded by his church to provide nonprofit status for other ministries.

 “God has blessed Spokane with people representing at least 11 countries from the African continent,” Lawrence said.  “These new residents offer our community a rich diversity of perspectives and cultural backgrounds.  The association offers the opportunity to learn from, participate with and enjoy these new friends as they settle into life in Spokane.

“Many refugees have come to us through lives of struggle and duress,” he added.  “I have been deeply challenged and blessed as I have heard their stories.”

The goals are to provide mutual support for African individuals and families in the Inland Northwest through integration, education, sharing experiences, cultural exchange and social activities.

The new board of directors includes men and women from Tanzania, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Spokane area.

The board hopes more Africans will become involved, eventually with a representative from each country in Africa with refugees living in Spokane. 

The association’s first event will be a potluck party and dance at 6 p.m., Saturday, June 3, at First Covenant Church, 212 S. Division.

The association plans to participate in such community events as the Fall Folk Festival at Spokane Community College.

For information, call 710-0204.