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Our First World Refugee Day Celebration

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In celebration of our upcoming World Refugee Day Celebration next Saturday, we’re reposting an article about our first official World Refugee Day Celebration from June 2011. Click through the photo gallery and read the article below, and don’t forget to come to this year’s celebration on Saturday, July 20!

“Celebrating as one.” I think this will be next year’s motto for Columbia’s Second World Refugee Day Celebration.

After much planning,  turbulent weather, and even more doubt, the World Refugee Day Celebration was in full swing on Saturday morning.

At 10:00, PedNet kicked off the event by leading a bike tour to the surrounding community gardens.

After the tour, riders were welcomed back to Broadway Christian Church to celebrate with the rest of the Columbia community. With any event like this, our goal is to diminish the line between”us” and “them.” We wanted to celebrate our differences by sharing our similarities, and what better way to do that than through food! Refugees from all across the world steamed, stir-fried, sliced, baked, shared, and ate their traditional foods alongside Columbia’s locals.

It was truly  encouraging to see personal bubbles burst and walls diminish as everyone began to dig into the food.  Food simply became a universal language.

After lunch, everyone gathered to watch a puppet show created by one of Columbia’s Iraqi refugees.

She performed these puppet shows as part of her teaching career in Iraq and Jordan and was more than ecstatic to share her gifts again. The attendees shared her excitement to watch the show as well!

After the show, the children planted flowers and decorated pots to celebrate the refugee’s achievements’ in the Refugee Garden.

Columbia’s refugees were instrumental in making Saturday a success. They organized themselves to bring food, set up and took down tables and chairs, and created artwork to decorate the garden.

The most striking was the picture of a soldier drawn by a refugee. I have seen these in documentaries, but this is the first time I’ve seen a refugee in Columbia draw like this. It was an eye-opening reminder that, while we share many similarities, refugees know heartache, resilience, and courage that we never will.

In celebration of World Refugee Day, Ann Curry wrote a beautiful piece about what the day really means. Throughout the article she questions if we are not all descendants of refugees who were fleeing from tragedies in our human history. She closed the article with the following that so clearly sheds light on the purpose and success of last Saturday’s celebration.

World Refugee Day is a reminder that there is no “us” and “them.”  There is only us, one human family, connected in ways we sometimes forget.

Thank you to all who took part in our first World Refugee Day Celebration. Thank  you to Broadway Christian Church and Debby for all the support they provided. Thank you to Maya, an intern, for organizing the entire event and making the idea a reality.

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