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Photos: WRD Community Launch

The “Waterloo Region Celebrates Refugees” community launch was hosted on June 1, 2016. This event featured world renowned Author and Speaker Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, local dignitaries, Crossing Borders youth performers, the Art Exhibition, a Silent Auction, and refreshments. 

The fourth annual WRD art exhibit will be on display at THEMUSEUM until June 26, 2016. For more information, please visit http://themuseum.ca

Photos courtesy of THEMUSEUM.

Hospitality and the Refugee Experience

Community volunteer, Director of Bring Back Hope, and Chair of the Immigration Partnership’s Belong Steering Group, Iman Arab, contrasts the journey of an immigrant and a refugee as a journey of pull versus push. While an immigrant is pulled toward a new opportunity and future, applying for visas, preparing for a journey and setting up settlement needs in their new country, a refugee’s journey is one of push – being forced out, with no preparation or plan, running for their lives. It is challenging to put ourselves in the shoes of someone being pushed out, escaping war and conflict, persecution and fear. People are pushed out from home, security, family, livelihoods, and places of belonging – facing an unknown future in an unknown place. Imagine it, imagine yourself, fleeing with babies and a few bags, setting out toward the unknown.

The journey of a refugee is choosing survival and existence over attachments to place and things – a journey of letting go and hoping for safety, protection and freedom. This is the journey of many in our world today. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who is, “…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Canada is a country with a long history of sponsoring, settling and offering hope and protection to people seeking refuge. By the end of February, the newly elected Liberal government had brought 25,000 refugees of the Syrian conflict to Canada. Waterloo Region has welcomed 1,112 people fleeing Syria including those who are Government Assisted and Privately Sponsored. This Region has come together with a settlement preparedness strategy and structure that encompasses community leaders, decision makers, government, non-profit organizations, business, faith and ethnocultural groups and community members to work to successfully welcome and support these newcomers and to ready our community and supports. Work is happening in areas such as housing, transportation, language support, health, community integration, advocacy and fundraising. This response is a work in progress and demonstrates the commitment and hospitality of people to make room and to welcome. (See WRwelcomesrefugees)

The Oxford dictionary defines hospitality as a noun, the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality can also be described as friendliness, compassion, reception, warmth, accommodation, generosity, and neighbourliness. When we welcome and offer refuge and support to those who are refugees, hospitality becomes a verb – it is an action. So, what is the action of hospitality in the face of so much loss – losing home, identity, language and culture, health, and more? While hospitality is the resettlement aspects of securing a home, attending school, learning English, and accessing services, it is also the acts of friendship and relationship. It is about listening and being there and taking the time so people can speak their identity and share their story, their culture, their food, their language, and their experiences.

While people may arrive as a refugee that is not who they are, that does not define them. Hospitality is about doing more together. The Immigration Partnership Belong Steering Group defines belonging as, “… an essential human need to be accepted and valued by others in order to reach one’s full potential in connecting, participating, integrating and thriving in the community.” The experience of belonging begins with the experience of hospitality. I am proud to live in this community.

Janet Howitt, Belong Steering Committee Immigration Partnership

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Media Release 2016 – World Refugee Day Waterloo Region Returns 

“Waterloo Region Celebrates Refugees”

Waterloo Region:  People in Waterloo Region have come together to welcome and support over 1200 refugees escaping Syria demonstrating we live in a community of protection and hope.  World Refugee Day (WRD) is an opportunity to recognize the stories of the refugee experience and to celebrate together.

In 2001, the United Nations declared June 20 as World Refugee Day – a day to recognize the journey and resilience of those fleeing persecution, war and conflict. While since 2001 this day has been observed in Kitchener Waterloo, over the past four years, events, observances and celebrations have been planned by many partners throughout the month of June across Waterloo Region.

The local 2016 theme is “Waterloo Region Celebrates Refugees.” Exciting highlights include:

•4th annual WRD Art Exhibit at THE MUSEUM visit – June 1-25 featuring local artists working in various mediums

• Launch event – June 1 at THE MUSEUM with guest speaker Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician who authored ‘I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey’, who now calls Canada home

• Skating Party – June 4 from 12-1:30pm at Cambridge Centre Mall – come enjoy a Canadian pastime in the summer

• Reading the Refugee Experience with Tasneem Jamal, national journalist and local author of ‘Where the Air is Sweet’, a story of escaping Uganda, read along with newcomer youth sharing their stories  – June 13th at Kitchener Public Library, Central

•WRD Awards evening recognizing people who have come to our Region and those who have supported them – June 20th at Victoria Park Pavilion

•Return performance of ‘I am Rohingya’, the story of the Rohingya’s persecution and journey to our community performed by young people who have experienced this story – June 26 at UW  Theatre of the Arts

A growing listing of free community events and 2016 partners with contact information can be found at: www.worldrefugeedaywr.com. Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region is proud to partner with many local organizations and groups, including the Community Coalition for Refugee and Immigrant Concerns (CCORIC), to support the coordination and promotion of World Refugee Day Waterloo Region 2016.

For more information:

Janet Howitt, Immigration Partnership

jhowitt@regionofwaterloo.com

519.575.4757.3163

 

World Refugee Day WR: http://worldrefugeedaywr.com/

Facebook: World Refugee Day WR

United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/events/refugeeday/

Immigration Partnership: http://www.immigrationwaterlooregion.ca/