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Guest Contribution: The Significance of the Word “Refugee”

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My name is Courtney and I am a PhD student at Western University in London, where I study policy and practice related to refugee families within the field of education. Although I attend school in London, I have always lived in Kitchener, Ontario—I am drawn to the wonderful events, activities, and people here that make Kitchener such a dynamic place to be! I was thrilled to find out that Kitchener participates in World Refugee Day and even more thrilled to find out that this event lasts for the entire month of June. I began my research with a focus on immigrant mothers, but soon learned through feedback at various conferences that when conducting research with immigrant women who are refugees, it is important to state specifically that the participant is a refugee. This feedback sparked a flame within me to continue my studies but to be very clear about what message I am sending based on the word choice I use. In using the word “immigrant”, I was implying that the people in my study had chosen a life in Canada and had been active in the decision making process CasinoinUS to leave their home country (although I understand that in many cases, push factors do not really give people much choice in leaving, even if the move is based on immigration rather than seeking asylum). This choice to move to Canada was true for some of the people I was working with, but not true of others. Other women that I was working with at the time had left harsh conditions and spent time in camps and were without place for a significant period of time. As well, some of the women I was working with had been away from their home countries for a variety of reasons, and during their time away, unrest or disaster had affected their home country and they were unable to return. The difference between choosing and not choosing to leave or enter a country is significant and needs to be taken into account so that policy and practice surrounding refugee issues can be informed and useful. The theme of World Refugee Day this year really resonates with me: “Nobody chooses to be a refugee”. I encourage everyone to explore this theme throughout the month of June by participating in various activities and information sessions for World Refugee Day.

If you would like to contact me about my research or about participation in World Refugee Day, please feel free to email me at courtneyannebrewer@gmail.com or contact me on Twitter at @CourtneyABrewer.

Partner Contribution: Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support

I am new to immigration, refugee and settlement related work. Through schooling I am completing a six-month placement at the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS), a local grassroots organization that supports refugee claimants in the refugee claim process. My time at MCRS has given me the chance to learn a great deal about a population that is seldom thought about in our day-to-day lives. Refugees come to Canada under extreme circumstances and hardships. There is a great deal of strength and resilience in these newcomers that I have been allowed to witness on a daily basis in the office.

 I have also seen great compassion and dedication from our volunteers in helping refugee claimants with the process. We are a small office and could not do the work we do without the amazing help from our volunteers. In April, as part of national volunteer week, we invited our volunteers for a night out to say THANK YOU for all the work that they do. We also created a video as to why MCRS volunteers are proud to protect refugees. It is fantastic to see the dedication they have to the fact that “no one chooses to be a refugee.”

 Through the help of not only MCRS’s volunteers but also countless other community organizations, we are getting ready to celebrate the upcoming World Refugee Day. I am looking forward for KW’s World Refugee Day (a.k,a month) Celebrations,  that recognizes the courage and strength of people forced to feel their homes, as I have had the opportunity to see this first hand.

 If you want to find out more about MCRS, visit us at mcrs.ca

 – Fran

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Guest Contribution: One Step at a Time Towards Change

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Refuge can be defined as “shelter or protection from danger or trouble, a place that provides shelter or protection, and a way out during difficulty.” Does not everyone deserve refuge, a place of safety and protection, especially those who have to flee their homes in order to escape danger? Just as the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day suggests, no one says “I think today would be a good day to be persecuted, chased away from my home and threatened; I think I want to be a refugee today”.

No one chooses to be a refugee – this statement may sound plain and obvious, but there is a heaviness and difficult complexity behind these words. This statement makes me think about the many perils that people have to face in order to survive and the difficult decisions they have to make. This statement makes me think of the lack of preparation a person has before they have to flee and the people they may be forced to leave behind. This statement makes me think of the struggles of feeling like you no longer belong somewhere and that you have suddenly lost the place you once called home. For so many, there really is no choice at all, no good choice that is – the choice is between staying and risking being involved in a conflict, or fleeing and risking the perils of a long journey to an unknown place.

So what? What can we do about any of that? While we may feel that these perils are happening somewhere far away from here and have nothing to do with dailycialisuse us, many people who have faced these struggles are our neighbours living right here in Kitchener-Waterloo – members of this community.

As individuals, we can start to raise our own awareness of what is going on in the larger world. We can start to educate ourselves on issues that refugees face overseas, as well as the difficulties of living here in Canada, in a place that is supposed to be one of refuge. We can volunteer or get involved with groups that support refugees. We can listen to the stories of other individuals who have faced this difficult journey. As part of a collective group, we can advocate for better supports for refugees within our country and we can teach others around us about the issues they face. As part of a community, we can support the organizations and groups that help refugees throughout the process of coming to and settling in a new place. We can be welcoming neighbours with open arms and we can celebrate the contributions that refugees have made to this community.

This year, join the Kitchener-Waterloo community in raising awareness about the realities that many refugees face. Start learning more about their experiences by attending some of the community events and listen to the rich stories that are being shared. Every step we take as individuals and as a community in raising awareness and getting involved is one more step toward creating change.

– Christina

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Partner Contribution: Waterloo Public Library

Waterloo Public Library is pleased to once again participate in World Refugee Day activities in the Region. We believe public libraries can play an important role in the settlement process of newcomers and we are proud to offer services, resources and information to facilitate the transition of individuals and families to life in Canada.

In collaboration with the KW Multicultural Centre and Kitchener Public Library, WPL is pleased to host a series of engaging film and speaker sessions throughout the month of June in honour of World Refugee Day. At each event, audiences will have the opportunity to view award winning documentaries detailing the experiences of refugee communities around the world. Following the films, speakers will parallel the experiences of those featured in the films to those of from similar refugee communities who have settled in Waterloo Region. We anticipate these sessions will be open, enlightening and engaging online gambeling conversations. Preregistration is not required for this free event. 

June 5th, 6:30pm Waterloo Public Library, Main Library – Moving to Mars, featuring speakers: Eh Taw Boe  Wai and Hser Ta Kay

Follow two families as they flee a refugee camp in Burma and establish new lives in the United Kingdom.

 

June 11th, 6:30pm Waterloo Public Library, Main Library – Last Chance, featuring speaker: Mandy Cowan

Refugees from around the world seek asylum in Canada to escape the persecution they have faced as a result of their sexual orientations.

 

June 19th, 6:30pm Waterloo Public Library, Main Library – Rain in a Dry Land, featuring speaker: Rahmah  Omar

Bantu families persecuted in their native Somalia arrive in urban America with hope for the future.

 

June 28th, 2:00pm Kitchener Public Library, Central Location – Everybody’s Children, featuring speakers: Wendy Adema and Eltag Elkhalifa

Follow a year in the life to two teenage refugees who have fled their home countries to establish new lives in Ontario.

 

Knowing the richness of culture, ideas and literature brought to Canada by refugees, we are also pleased to share our June featured titles honouring World Refugee Day. This collection of recommended titles offers both fiction and non-fiction accounts of refugee experiences from many different countries. From the newest releases of Ishmael Beah and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche to current events chronicles of  today’s refugee crises, this list is full of must reads for those interested in global conflict, migration and refugee issues. All titles listed are available through Waterloo Public Library.

– Laura; Manager, Branches, WPL

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Partner Contribution: Immigration Partnership in Waterloo Region

Hello all World Refugee Day Supporters,

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to this blog! The Immigration Partnership is proud to be a champion of World Refugee Day Kitchener-Waterloo for both its efforts in highlighting the spirit, courage and resilience of refugees globally as well as in recognizing their local contributions. As a community, we are truly at a loss if we do not create, expand and sustain opportunities for refugees to work, settle and belong in our region.

For those of you who are not aware, the Immigration Partnership is a community-wide initiative focused on facilitating the successful settlement, integration and community involvement of immigrants in Waterloo Region. The work of the Immigration Partnership is guided by the Community Action Plan (CAP). The update of the CAP was recently launched in March 2014. It includes strategic directions, priorities and many possible activities across the 3 pillar areas of settle, work and belong. To access the full CAP report, please visit http://www.immigrationwaterlooregion.ca/CAPFullReport2014-2016.pdf .

There are several activities included in the CAP that speak to the importance of providing supports for refugees as they navigate their way through the complex journey of settling in our community. Presently, a key related priority for the Settle Pillar is to develop supports for refugee claimants specifically geared toward their first eight weeks in Waterloo Region. It has been identified that this initial period is critical for refugees as there are often little or no supports to assist them during this time. The Settle Steering Group has identified a need for collaboration with stakeholders in order to develop and expand supports for refugee claimants in the areas of personal needs items, food, clothing, housing, transportation and healthcare. To discuss ways to get involved in supporting this CAP priority or other areas related to refugees, please contact Daniella McIntosh at 519-575-4757 ext. 1233 or dmcintosh@regionofwaterloo.ca.

SPOILER ALERT! Immigration Partnership Newsletter

Be sure to check the upcoming Immigration Partnership Summer Newsletter to be posted in early July on the Immigration Partnership website at www.immigrationwaterlooregion.ca. Its focus is on World Refugee Day and services for refugees in our community. It also includes an interview with Eunice Valenzuela from Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support.

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