World Refugee Day opens eyes to refugee stories

Meeting neighbors, finding shared values, and learning about the richness of the combined cultures of all of the people who are proud to call Nebraska home is exciting and can help us to overcome what often divides us.

Here, Olivia, an Appleseed intern, shares her experience at the recent World Refugee Day Celebration in Omaha. There are many opportunities across the state this summer to meet neighbors, learn new stories and experience the richness of our combined cultures. We’ve provided a list of some activities for you to check out.

320-WRDThere is something incredibly daunting about the term “refugee.” Before attending World Refugee Day, I had had the basic definition down: someone fleeing their country because of danger to their life. For me, and many others I would suppose, the word simply reared images of death and destruction, burning buildings, and disease. However, everything else about refugees, where in specific they are from, where they are placed, and their lifestyles remained something I had no idea that I didn’t know.

I had no awareness at all of the refugees being placed into my very own community. So in many ways, World Refugee Day was a wake-up call. Although hopefully the event was just the start of more experiences with the refugee population of Nebraska.

I learned a remarkable amount of things during the day but what had taken me most by surprise was that less than one percent of the entire refugee population of the world is resettled into another country, meaning the vast majority of individuals live out long years in refugee camps. This statistic definitely shook my previous conceptualization of the lives of refugees in the world.

Though perhaps marginal in their situation, the resettlement of refugees who have been accepted to live in the U.S. and in cities like Lincoln and Omaha is a vital task. And again, something that I had not known was going on around me. After visiting the booths of Catholic Social Services and Lutheran Family Services (two of the local organizations offering resettlement services) at World Refugee Day, I started researching more into their initiatives in assisting both immigrants and refugees on a more personal, community scale. And I am now very interested in volunteering with their programs.

Another exceptionally valuable thing that I had observed from World Refugee Day was that although refugees have gone through devastating circumstances, the people themselves seemed optimistic. They were filled with hopes and prospects for the future. Which I believe shows a lot about the vitality of our state.

Here’s a list of some opportunities across the state this summer to meet neighbors, learn new stories and experience the richness of our combined cultures.

  • Heritage Campfire Program- Homestead National Monument of America – July 25 – Details
  • Wilber Czech Festival- Wilber- July 31-August 2 – Details
  • Heritage Campfire Program- Homestead National Monument of America – August 1 – Details
  • New Americans Arts Festival – Omaha- August 7 – Details
  • 2015 Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Annual Pow Wow- Niobrara – August 7-9 – Details
  • Festival Latino- Columbus, Ohio- August 8 & 9 – Details
  • Heritage Campfire Program- Homestead National Monument of America- August 15 – Details
  • John Beheler- Second Saturday Speaker Series- Omaha- August 15 – Details
  • Genoa U.S. Indian School Celebration- Genoa- August 15 – Details
  • Native American Presence on the Missouri- Kearney- August 18- November 1 – Details
  • Omaha Greek Festival- Omaha- August 21-23 – Details
  • Lincoln Greek Festival- Lincoln- August 28 & 29 – Details
  • Family Fiesta!- Omaha- September 20 – Details
  • 45th Annual McCook Heritage Days!- McCook- September 26-27 – Details
  • Music and Dance Festival-Schuyler- September 27 – Details
  • Japanese Ambience Festival- Omaha- October 3-4 – Details
  • Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse Community Event- Lincoln Haymarket- October 8 – Details
  • 9th Annual Hispanic Heritage Month State Commemoration – Nebraska State Capitol- October 9 – Details

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