By Tyler Bagwell // Creative Director, Karibu News

Buffalo is welcoming immigrants and refugees from all over the world, but this new population is still facing some challenges. Karibu News, a multicultural and multilingual periodical aims to make Western New York natives aware of the obstacles faced by the refugee and immigrant communities, as well as inform these communities about the services available to them.

After producing 25 issues in its first year, Karibu News has established itself as a viable media platform, providing news and information in Buffalo’s immigrant languages including Arabic, Burmese, French, Karen, Nepali, Spanish, and Swahili. Many of Buffalo’s immigrant and refugee populations arrive unable to speak or read English, so Karibu allows them to read local news relevant to their community in their native language.

“Karibu,” Swahili for “Welcome,” was chosen because it is simple for everyone to pronounce and is easy to translate in many languages,” says Rubens Mukunzi, the paper’s founder and publisher. “As we celebrate our one-year anniversary, we really want to thank our readers, advertisers and community members who continue to support this startup media platform in its journey to become a vibrant and inclusive voice in the conversations about and with immigrants and refugees in the City of Buffalo.”

Rubens is a refugee himself, from Rwanda. The language, cultural and weather barriers he experienced upon moving here pushed him to start this special newspaper. While contemplating how to start his new professional life, he decided that starting his own business would be the best path to success. Under the assumption that he would not be hired as a professional journalist or publisher, he started his own paper instead.

“… it is increasingly important for locals to become acquainted with their migrant neighbors and educate themselves on the eclectic mix of culture, religion and tradition surrounding them.”

“The objective of Karibu News is to integrate the refugee and immigrant communities with the local community. We want these individuals and groups to be more independent and informed as to what’s going on in the area. With the ever growing ethnic population in WNY, it is increasingly important for locals to become acquainted with their migrant neighbors and educate themselves on the eclectic mix of culture, religion and tradition surrounding them,” said Sara Ali, Editor in Chief of Karibu News.  Karibu admits it was not easy to get the business started, but after one year, it is beginning to thrive, publishing 5,000 copies every two weeks and distributing to different areas of Buffalo. The paper features stories about immigrant and refugee issues, along with resources and ways to get help. Its special columns such as “Buffalonian of the Week,” “Ask a Lawyer” and “Welcome to Buffalo” allow all community members, whether new immigrants or descendants of immigrants, to share their story, skills and experience.

Despite a successful first year, Karibu still faces financial challenges, partly because it is available for free. In addition, there has been some pushback from anonymous members of the community. Some of locals don’t wholly understand  the immigration and refugee situation in the country.

“In the last couple weeks, for the third time, I received in my office mail box, a letter threatening our paper and our community. In this letter, the anonymous writer said immigrants and refugees would regret coming here, that we should return to the continent that we come from. I reported to police those hate letters. They are still under investigation,” Mukunzi said.

Through these difficult issues, Karibu News still plans to grow its voice and eventually expand its publication into other cities and onto new platforms including radio and television, talking about the new American population.

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