Point Breeze: Aquinas Center Supports Immigrant Communities

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The diversity in the residents of Point Breeze is hard to miss. It’s plastered on neighborhood storefronts and in advertisements that hail them back to homelands thousands of miles from Philly.

Maria Ghiso leads an ESL class.

Maria Ghiso leads an ESL class.

The Aquinas Center, located at the corner of 17th and Morris Streets, was established a little more than a year ago and has since attracted and aided many of these residents with a wide array or services. The modest two-story brick building sits in the shadow of the historic St. Thomas Aquinas Church and houses legal, psychiatric, English as a second language, community organizing services and more under one roof.

Director Bethany Welch works to make sure that the “parallel lives” that many immigrant men and women inhabit intersect every now and then.

ESL students hold English and Spanish phrase sheets

ESL students hold English and Spanish phrase sheetCensus data shows that nearly 12 percent of Philadelphians were born outside of the United States.

Census data also shows that majority of city’s Indonesian and Vietnamese population’s live below Market Street. Philly boasts the second largest Indonesian population in the country and the third largest Vietnamese population.

As of 2012, census data also shows that 13 percent of Philadelphians are Latino or Hispanic.

Those numbers mesh well with the Aquinas mission of  “serving the immigrant and stranger in South Philadelphia.”

Volunteer gardeners spruce up the Aquinas Center court yard.

Volunteer gardeners spruce up the Aquinas Center court yard.

– Text and images by Jad Sleiman.

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