This past Friday, we were invited to participate in Catholic Charities’ refugee day celebration. The event, which gathered refugees from countries around the world, gave refugees the opportunity to connect with organizations that help them in the local community. It featured cultural dances from refugees; some speeches in support of migration; and fun children’s activities like bouncy castles, henna tattoos, and snow cones.
To give ourselves and our members a better picture of where refugees come from, we set up a map and encouraged visitors to put pins where they were from or where they felt connected to. The adults at the event had no hesitation on where their pins belonged, but many children had difficulty even remembering what their country was called; nevertheless, they had plenty of fun learning about maps and placing their pins. One young girl said she was from “Swahili” and proceed to place her pin in the empty Russian land known as Siberia. For children like her, Louisville will be the only home that they know, so, now more than ever, it is remarkably important to ensure that refugees feel welcome in their American homes.
In our preparation for the event, we created a sign saying hello in a variety of languages. To ensure that we had the languages that people would recognize, we researched the most represented country groups in Louisville’s refugee population. Due to the political climate that has put increasing amounts of focus on Mexican and Middle Eastern migrants, some of us were surprised at the high percentage of African and Eastern European refugees in the community. According to Urban.org, 35% of the people who resettled in Louisville from 1994 to 2004 were from Eastern Europe, mainly Bosnia. Events like these are critical, because they allow for us to take our understanding of refugees into our own hands. We hope to see you in 2018 at Catholic Charities’ next refugee day!