Charlotte groups unite to celebrate World Refugee Day (Full story)

Charlotte Observer

Crystal O’Gorman
Correspondent
  • – COURTESY OF KATHLEEN DURKIN
    150 Americans and refugees came together last year to celebrate World Refugee Day at the 7th Street Market.

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Catholic Charities will join with six local nonprofit organizations, professional agencies and educational boards to host the third annual World Refugee Day Charlotte.

The event consists of a week’s worth of free activities starting June 15 and culminating with a cultural festival at Freedom Park on June 22.

Kailey Otten, coordinator of the event committee, said World Refugee Day takes place yearly on June 20. Otten said the committee’s goal is to raise awareness about refugees in Charlotte and celebrate the rich culture they bring.

Otten, who also is an assistant facilitator for Catholic Charities’ Refugee Youth Program, said Charlotte is home to many refugees, but most are from Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Otten said 150 people attended last year’s festival, which was held at 7th Street Public Market.

Amanda Ingrassia is Central Piedmont Community College’s Refugee Education Specialist and a World Refugee Day committee member. She said she is working with local refugees to develop and present cultural booths for the festival, adding that refugees feel enthusiastic about sharing their heritage.

The committee will have other informative booths to explain what it means to be a refugee, highlight local refugee leaders and business owners, and acknowledge local organizations that support the refugee community.

The festival also offers entertainment with traditional cultural dances and songs. There will be a citizenship trivia game, free henna demonstrations and coloring kits for kids.

Catholic Charities, a nonprofit social services organization that aids the community as an arm of the Diocese of Charlotte, spearheaded a partnership with area businesses and organizations that work with the local refugee population.

The committee includes Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency, Refugee Support Services, CPCC, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, ourBRIDGE and Mental Health Association of the Central Carolinas. It has worked to create an event that engages the public in conversations about local refugee resettlement and the positive role of refugees in the community.

Sil Ganzó is a World Refuge Day committee member and founder of ourBRIDGE, an after-school program for refugee and immigrant children.

“It is very encouraging to see the different organizations that serve this community come together in an effort to recognize and celebrate the determination and courage of the refugees who are building their lives anew in Charlotte,” he said.

Perry Griffin, a multicultural advocate for the Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas, said: “It is so important that we recognize the richness of our city’s diverse cultures. World Refugee Day is a great occasion for American-born citizens to learn more about these amazing people, their cultures and hear their stories of resiliency.”

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