Keep up-to-date with our daily activities and posts for World Refugee Day 2020 right here!
Thank you to everyone who chose to welcome and stand with refugees this World Refugee Day!
June 20 – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Celebrates World Refugee Day
LSSNCA was blessed to have the support of four chapters of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. participate in World Refugee Day this year! The fine ladies of Alpha Alpha Lambda Omega, Xi Zeta Omega, Chi Beta Omega, and Xi Sigma Omega chapters all helped us celebrate the occasion and make a Global Impact.
Alpha Alpha Lambda Omega chapter fundraised $500 for grocery gift cards to impact our Hyattsville, Maryland refugee families:
The ladies of Xi Sigma Omega collected messages of hope and welcoming for our newly arrived refugee families:
Chi Beta Omega chapter showed welcoming and solidarity with refugees through the Expecting Mom’s Wishlist on Amazon. You can access and donate to this wishlist still!
And finally the ladies of Xi Zeta Omega held a Drive and Drop donation event to benefit LSSNCA clients, as well as, Deeds of Kindness, Lions Club, and Soles for Souls:
June 19 – Fly for Peace: Kite Making and Flying Event in Hyattsville, MD
On Friday evening, our Hyattsville, Maryland staff invited clients, family, and friends to an evening of social distancing, fun, and celebration. The activity decided on was something that our clients would enjoy and something that would also remind them of home. As most of you already know, the majority of LSSNCA refugees and immigrants come to us from Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, as you might have seen in the movie/novel The Kite Runner, kite flying isn’t just for fun but held as a highly competitive sport with the aim of “ruling the sky.” As NPR recounts: “The kites are flown very high, easy on a day when the wind is stiff like we had. It’d be a lovely way to just pass the time away, except that there’s another part of kite flying here — at any time, one of the other kite flyers can decide to attack your kite.”
According to Radio Free Europe: “Afghans have elevated kite flying — or “gudiparan bazi” — to an art form, and one of its chief attractions is kite fighting.”
“To the first-time visitor, the skies above Kabul appear to be filled with fluttering birds or pieces of paper caught in the wind. A closer look reveals hundreds of brightly colored kites soaring high into the air.”
“The Taliban regime banned hobbies such as kite flying and bird keeping, in the belief that such pastimes were un-Islamic.”
Though our kite-flying event wasn’t about battling for the sky, we wanted to offer fun and new memories for our clients to make here in their new homes. We thank all of the donors who purchased kite-making materials on our Amazon Wish List. We appreciate all of those who continuously help us throughout the year to make Maryland and Virginia welcoming new communities for our clients.
*Photo credit to our amazing volunteer, Tameem!
June 19 – From all of us at LSSNCA
June 18 – Joint Statement: UN refugee chief Grandi and IOM’s Vitorino announce resumption of resettlement travel for refugees
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced today the resumption of resettlement departures for refugees. Read the full statement here.
June 18 – Spotlight: LSSNCA Refugee Women’s Face Mask Project
Led by our Fairfax, Virginia Refugee Health Education and Outreach Liaison, Netra Anand, some of our female, Afghan clients have been sewing masks for the greater NOVA community and healthcare workers. This micro-enterprise project not only allows refugee women to give back to their community but to earn a bit of spending money. We are always happy to see people put their skills to the best work! Learn more about the program through a seamstress testimonial and sewing demonstration.
June 17 – Music & Art Around the World
Today we celebrate the talents and cultures of LSSNCA’s clients and staff. In 2019, our Refugee and Immigrant Services team helped resettle 467 individuals from 11 countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the DRC, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, and Sudan. Our employment development teams assisted 324 individuals from an even wider span of countries obtain employment during the fiscal year. Today celebrates these individuals and the beautiful and vibrant cultures they bring with them.
Maryland Office Director, Tanya Vitusagavulu, wishes you a happy World Refugee Day in her Fiji tradition.
LSSNCA Maryland staff member, Layth Sabbagh, shares a video of himself playing the oud and singing in Arabic. The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses. It is common to the Middle East, and Layth’s home country of Syria.
Senior Job Developer, Lamya Salman, wishes you a happy World Refugee Day on behalf of LSSNCA and her Iraqi culture.
Nigerian, employment client, Musembo Salomon, shares a song in French: “Je Suis Immigrant.”
Performance of “America the Beautiful” by an Afghan family’s daughter. This family arrived in Maryland just a year ago. The children did not speak English but look how much has changed in just one year!
A song for mom:
June 16 – Spotlight: Panel with LSSNCA Scholarship Recipients
On June 16, we hosted a Zoom event with four of our 2020 Bold Journey Scholarship recipients: Tefera, Abdul, Andre, and Mahsa. During this panel moderated by educator and scholarship judge, Lauren Kuykendall, the four recipients discussed their journeys to the U.S. as refugees, their careers and career aspirations, and the challenges they have faced along the way.
Unique perspectives and ideas were shared by all the panelists. But some of the quotes that struck the audience the hardest came from Andre. Though still a young man, Andre’s perspectives have been greatly shaped by the childhood that was stolen from him as a refugee youth from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. See some of the college student’s responses below.
When asked what challenges he faces in his education and in the U.S.:
My biggest challenge is I love being independent and making my decisions. I love the risk of knowing I have the power to make the right decision or wrong. [As a refugee] that was taken away from me. There are so many things that I can’t look at, what would Andre do, but what would Andre do as a black person in America? Back in my country, everyone is black. It’s the struggle of everyone as a human being.
Do I do things that benefit everybody or just the people that share the color of my skin? I have to look at things through the lens of a black person in America. When a kid shook my hand after a soccer game. Climate and history of black people in America. People coming from different angles and once you get to know people well it makes it easier to…move forward and look past categories like…male and female, black and white.
Andre’s advice for future resettled refugees adjusting to a new life and trying to obtain their dreams in a new country:
I hope at least for myself, I know a lot of people who have been in my position. I have been alone and been through a lot. Word of encouragement to refugees who will be coming – it’s not fair. You can be a child one more time. You don’t have to fight and grind it by yourself. You can ask help. If someone says “no”, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help again. That’s one thing – I’d understand where they are. Yes you can go your own solo route. But it’s ok to take the help. Don’t forget who you are and the people who got you here. Nothing about intelligence or being wealthy or getting super high grades. Be kind to those who are kind to you. It’s a process where you flip back and forth.
And when asked what motivates him, he had the following to say:
Too many people are betting on me to lose. Too many people could be in the same chair. I don’t know how many people were turned down for me to be there. The motivation is partly duty and obligation to the people who have invested time and resources for me to be in school. Give all of them a fair shot. I know what life without education looks like. I know the effects of it. Less educated you are the less [opportunity you have to succeed] … I’m trying to break that cycle for my family, for my kids. Hopefully they don’t have to go through 7 or 10 more cycles. The motivation to do it is so much motivation. There’s no other option. You have to get a good education if you want to achieve anything, but also make such a difference in life. It’s sad but if you don’t have education…you could have great ideas, ways to fix society, but if you’re not educated, your ideas won’t be valued. If you’re committed to the change, you’ll [find a way]. That’s what motivates me.
Another young adult wise beyond her years is Mahsa, a pre-med student at George Mason University. Mahsa, whose mother is her role model, had this to say about her education and advice for future resettled refugees:
I want to become a medical doctor to heal those who come to me with mental problems, that’s one of the hardest parts and we should help each other. That’s my specific field of interest in medical. I’m working hard and studying for the MCAT. Words of encouragement – as I said before, keep your hopes up! You’re going to need it. It will be challenging. You’re in one of the best countries with the best education system. Explore the world, you only live once. The world is rapidly changing. Apply yourself and use the opportunities. When I applied for college I didn’t know how I would pay for it, but LSS helped me. They are all amazing people that will help.
Starting anew in a foreign country is not easy for anyone. Refugees and immigrants of various English speaking levels, careers, and education levels face challenges in the U.S. According to Abdul Salar, “usually we are facing many challenges in education. We are new, here in the United States, it’s quite different than other countries. Specific schools, educations. Difficult in a brief and short time to know the schools and institutions. I deal with that… Education in the United States is super hard….two main purpose: one is education. The second is connections. Education is the best place to find friends and explore and seek help and find your goals and yourself in the stream of the society.”
“When you have connection with someone who has more experience than you it makes sense more. You can ask for help and feel more belonged. Mentors are very good friends as well.”
Tefera agrees with Abdul that education can be a great tool for new Americans and our newly arrived neighbors: “Education is a tool used to see your community and environment and helps you to find solutions for the community for a better future.”
June 15 – Storytime Around the World
In celebration of World Refugee Day, LSSNCA staff and friends read children’s book “My Two Blankets” by Irena Kobald. This reading highlights the many languages spoken by our refugee clients in the DMV. On this video you will hear: Amharic, Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, French, Kinyarwanda, Pashto, Spanish, Swahili, and Tigrinya.