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New clinic offers free health care option to uninsured

By Jenn Kloc/ For CU-CitizenAccess — Irfan Ahmad had a problem. He saw people in his community who couldn’t afford what he considered a basic human right — health care.

The engineer did what many would do to address a difficult problem: he reached out to members of his local religious community to find a solution together.

The idea for the Avicenna Community Health Center was born, but Ahmad and others at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center knew they couldn’t do it alone. They collaborated with local hospitals, clinics and community members to construct a strong foundation for their free clinic.

Courtesy photo/Avicenna Community Health Center/ A patient has her blood pressure and temperature checked

Bilingual teachers in demand under new state law

 By Rachel Buller/For CU-CitizenAccess – When Lily Jimenez arrives at her classroom each morning, she begins the day by switching over her calendar to the correct day of the week – in Spanish. At 9 a.m. on the dot, a dozen or so students trickle into the room, most toting backpacks bigger than they are. 

“Lunes, martes, miercoles, jueves,” the students start to sing in unison. Switching effortlessly between Spanish and English, Jimenez leads them in the song’s English counterpart. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…” 

File photo/A.M.Cole/Brian, a third grader in Lena Sacco's bilingual class, writes down observations he made during their science lesson on May 12, 2010.

Local book program supplies Illinois prisoners with hope, education

By Jessica Bourque / For CU-CitizenAccess — In a stuffy, dimly lit basement located in downtown Urbana, Ella Kinzie sits hunched over at a table, a pile of unopened letters by her side. She is hard at work, doing a job similar to Santa Claus’s, reading over wish lists and turning them into realities.

She sends a cookbook to Cristina, who wants to learn how to bake cupcakes, a Spanish- English dictionary to Alejandro, who longs to speak better English, and an advertising book to Maurice, who wishes to start his own business one day.  

“Even the most ordinary requests are special to me because it’s like these few books are going to make such a difference in that person’s quality of life,” said Kinzie.

Photo illustration/ A stack of Webster dictionaries. Dictionaries are the most requested book by Illinois prisoners from the Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners program

State commission to recommend solutions to decrease extreme poverty

By Fawn Clark/For CU-CitizenAccess — The Commission on the Elimination of Poverty will make final recommendations later this month on steps to decrease the rate of extreme poverty in Illinois by 50 percent over the next five years.

Commission members say they hope the next legislature will act on the recommendations by next spring.

Since its creation in 2008, the commission has been working toward a goal of eliminating extreme poverty, which is defined as a family that earns less than half of the poverty level.

CU-CitizenAccess/A woman is seen leaving empty tomb inc., taking with her the two free layette sets she picked up for her newborn twin grandchildren in January. Empty tomb inc. is a Christian organization and offers services to people in need of all income levels. A state commission will make final recommendations later this month to decrease the rate of extreme poverty after hosting public hearings statewide earlier this year.

Congress extends unemployment benefit help

CHAMPAIGN – â€œI want a job,” Sara Goble’s resume reads. 

“I am a hard worker and I am tired of being unemployed. I have welded and worked in a factory half of my life so it would not be quite new to me. I can pass (a) drug test . . .”

Goble, a single mother of two, had collected unemployment for more than 60 weeks as of March 26.  Across the state, the unemployment rate continues to top 11 percent.

The high jobless rate has nearly depleted the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Pam G. Dempsey/Sara Goble, 35, in her Hoopeston home in February. Goble is one of the 660,000 state residents who filed for unemployment for the first time in 2009. Since last summer, the state has been forced to borrow $2.2 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.

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