All posts by jaybouchard

Sharing Syrian stories: local high schoolers interview refugees with StoryCorps

By Jay Bouchard

When her college campus was bombed in 2011, Salam Abdulrazzak wanted to remain in Syria and protest the Assad regime’s unwarranted cruelty. But at her parents insistence, she reluctantly left in January 2012 and sought refuge in the United States.

She thought her stay was temporary, but after more than four years in Chicago she is now an integral part of a stable Syrian community in the Chicago area.

On Tuesday, Abdulrazzak shared her story with high schooler Isabelle Gius as part of a StoryCorps interview organized by Latin High School English teacher Frank Tempone.

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HourVoice: Workers’ rights smartphone app to launch in Chicago

By Jay Bouchard

In an effort to empower and protect the rights of low-wage hourly workers, a first-of-its-kind mobile application is launching Monday in Chicago with the potential to increase global workplace transparency.

Don Chartier, a retired business executive and first-time entrepreneur, spent the past year developing HourVoice. The smartphone application allows low-wage employees to better manage their scheduling and evaluate employers on important criteria like wages, benefits, breaks, and safety.

“I’ve been worried about inequality for a long time,” said Chartier, of his inspiration to build the app.

Don Chartier, HourVoice founder, discusses his product with former president Bill Clinton. (Photo courtesy of Don Chartier).
Don Chartier, HourVoice founder, discusses his product with former president Bill Clinton at a fundraiser in Chicago.  HourVoice launches Monday Feb. 29 in Chicago. (Photo by Sue Berghoef, courtesy of Don Chartier).

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Flint Congressman talks water crisis with Illinois activists

By Jay Bouchard

In the wake of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, U.S Rep. Dan Kildee (D) is reaching out to Illinois in an effort to gain legislative support and brief his neighboring state on ways it can support Flint.

Kildee, a Flint native, visited west suburban Lombard on Saturday to discuss ways local activists can help Flint and thanked the many volunteers from Illinois who have already given generously to the poor, industrial city that suffered unprecedented contamination of its public water supply over the past two years.

Kildee recognized activists like Abrar Quader, an attorney for the Compassionate Care Network—a Chicago-based grassroots healthcare organization—who has been visiting Flint on a weekly basis.

“The Flint issue was a moment in which we thought it was important to show solidarity and be on the ground,” Quader said.
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Federal agency, faith-based groups join to combat human trafficking in Chicago

By Jay Bouchard

Recalling her years as a sex-trafficking victim in Chicago and Miami, Sam Wijeyakumar reflected that “if God had not been part of my healing process, I’d probably be dead.”

Wijeyakumar, now an activist working to end human trafficking, offered her sobering testimony as part of a “clarion call” in which local faith groups and federal officials are joining forces to rescue victims and better support survivors of sex and labor trafficking.

Over the past year, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), a federal agency promoting the well-being of families in the United States, has brought together various faith-based groups in Chicago on several occasions to discuss ways to better combat human trafficking.

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God is secondary in New Hampshire primary

By Jay Bouchard

MANCHESTER, NH—Tom Rettberg reflects the historical nature of New Hampshire voters—a fickle electorate notoriously tough to impress.

Standing in a crowded gymnasium waiting to hear Marco Rubio speak, Rettberg, an undecided voter from Weare, NH, described how he has spent months creating a comprehensive spreadsheet ranking each candidate in the Republican primary field. He’s evaluating the candidates on issues like economics, potential Supreme Court appointments, immigration, and national security.

Though he is a self-described Christian, Rettberg said his spreadsheet features no columns ranking the candidates’ religion or matters of faith.

He notes he has great respect for candidates who demonstrate their faith on the campaign trail, but said it’s “not a high priority” when he considers the many factors influencing his decision.

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Christianity on stage in Iowa: Jerry Falwell Jr. joins Trump for weekend rallies

By Jay Bouchard
DAVENPORT, Iowa – In a final push before Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is rallying crowds with the help of one of the country’s most prominent evangelical Christian leaders.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Virginia’s Liberty University,  is lending his name and reputation as the New York real estate developer works to attract social conservatives. Falwell’s very presence, however, is drawing fresh questions about the authenticity of Trump’s own faith.

A self-described Presbyterian, Trump has made several unconventional comments about Christianity while rising to the top of the polls in Iowa. Yet a  Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll indicates that conservative Christians slightly prefer Trump to his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who touts his evangelical faith at every campaign stop.

“Now I’m leading with the evangelicals,” Trump boasted at a Saturday rally in Davenport, where Falwell introduced him.  “And frankly, I think it was Jerry’s incredible spirit and endorsement.”

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Evangelical Christians hold summit on refugee crisis

By Jay Bouchard

While an unprecedented number of migrants seek refuge across the globe, evangelical leaders and activists are seeking to trigger a bold Christian response to the refugee crisis.

“Will we be remembered for taking care of those in one of the greatest crises to ever happen, or will we be remembered for living in fear?” asked Dr. Jamie Aten, co-founder and director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College outside Chicago.

Aten was one of more than a dozen humanitarian activists and Christian leaders who called those gathered to action Jan. 20 at the Great Commandment and Great Commission (GC2) Summit at Naperville’s Community Christian Church.

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Mayor Emanuel joins Jewish, African American communities for MLK celebration

Text by Jay Bouchard
Video by Brendan Hickey

The Star of David, featured prominently in the windows and architecture of Stone Temple Baptist Church, illuminates a rich history between Jews and African Americans in Chicago.

A former synagogue in North Lawndale, Stone Temple Baptist Church was host to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Monday that brought together the city’s Jewish and African American communities and drew an unexpected guest—Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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City lawmakers join local activists to prevent immigration raids

By Jay Bouchard

Chicago activists and city politicians are responding to the federal government’s increased deportation efforts by organizing community awareness campaigns and filing resolutions condemning raids on undocumented families.

Several Chicago-area immigration rights organizations have hosted workshops and led door-knocking campaigns in an effort to educate undocumented immigrants about their rights in the instance of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid.
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