Refugees are more important than ever. People in search of safer lands, for themselves and for their families, filled with hopes and dreams – that is the America that we should all believe in. For a while it looked like we were living that dream, as we saw an influx of refugees arrive to Buffalo, a city with arms wide open. Now, times have changed, almost overnight it seems.
As much as it would be easy to throw our hands in the air and get crazed, we need to stay the course – be resilient and determined to fight the good fight.
We are not alone in these sentiments. There are allies out there in the form of the International Institute of Buffalo, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, Journey’s End Refugee Services, and Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Eric County that are resolute in their convictions that the US should be a safe haven for those who have endured wars, poverty, hunger, and the like. That is why the aforementioned groups have come together to organize a Virtual Run/Walk to recognize World Refugee Day on Saturday, June 20, 2020.
The event is being spearheaded by The Center in Utica, which aims to further empower WNY resettlement agencies. Partner agencies include:
- The Center, Utica
- Catholic Charities of Buffalo
- Catholic Family Center, Rochester
- International Institute of Buffalo
- Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County
- Journey’s End Refugee Services, Buffalo
- U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Albany
“We are so excited to join this collaborative effort to share the stories of New Yorkers from all across the globe and to be able to bring the stories of Buffalo’s own immigrants and refugees to listeners and supporters across the state,” says Eva Hassett, Executive Director of the International Institute of Buffalo.
“People often talk about diversity, equity, inclusion and acceptance, but I think compassion is where it all starts,” states Mary Owusu, whose family emigrated from Cape Coast, Ghana, to Buffalo in 1992. “Be willing to look at a fellow human being and say, ‘How are you’ and mean it. It starts there. The compassion of others made all the difference for us when we needed it, and in the end, my siblings and I, all 5 of us, were able to stay in America.”
Ms, Owusu added, “I’m paying it forward because when we needed help, others showed me the way, so why can’t I be a helper too?”
Local resettlement agencies have partnered with Olmsted Parks Conservancy to provide participants with recommended walking routes through many of the Conversancy’s beautiful and historic parks.
Karen Andolina Scott, Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services, echoes this sentiment: “Coming together to support our refugee community, even if it is virtually, is what we do best in the City of Good Neighbors. ‘A Walk in Their Words’ is above all a community-wide sharing event, with refugees sharing their powerful stories and participants showing their gratitude by giving back to a community that has enriched all of our lives in WNY in so many different ways.”
Ms. Owusu, and others, will be sharing their own stories at the community event, to hopefully shine a light on issues that quite often get swept under the rug. Add to the hardships COVID-19 and racial conflicts throughout the world and we have exasperated problems that can can only be resolved through united communities.
“Catholic Charities of Buffalo is proud to stand with The Center and our local resettlement agencies for this important event. We hope through this collective effort, Western New Yorkers can get to better know our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters, and can draw inspiration from their stories. We hope you’ll join us on June 20,” says Deacon Steve Schumer, President and CEO of Catholic Charities.
Observed every year, World Refugee Day provides an opportunity to honor the courage of refugees and recognize their resilience in building new lives in communities throughout the United States.
“Amidst the global pandemic, we have seen how interdependent we are, and that it is our duty to protect one another. Now more than ever, we must honor our unique tradition as a nation with a deep history of welcoming and protecting refugees by sharing their stories and celebrating their strength” said Molly S. Short Carr, Ph.D., CEO of Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County.
Of course the pandemic has presented some obstacles that these groups have resolved to overcome. The virtual walk/run will be not only feature online educational and storytelling components that will benefit people across the globe, it will also encompass the following ways to get directly involved:
For a $30 minimum donation, individuals can participate from anywhere!
- Walk or run on your treadmill
- Take a walk or run in your neighborhood
- Run in the park, but please be sure to follow all County or State regulations, as well as the CDC’s guidelines of social distancing.
- Receive a virtual gift bag with your registration!
All participants walking in a park, or on a treadmill, will be able to listen to audio stories during the virtual walk/run that will help them to better understand the complexities that are inherent to the global refugee movement, from the mouths of those who have experienced the affliction firsthand. Hence the event’s name, A Walk in Their Words.
“In a time when healthy and safety precautions require us to maintain physical distance from others in our community, our hope is that this event – this sharing of stories – can help build bonds of connection and community with our neighbors from all over the world,” concludes Ms. Hassett.
Go to www.awalkintheirwords.org for more information and to register for the event.
A Walk in Their Words is one of several World Refugee Day celebrations being held this year, please visit World Refugee Day WNY at www.wrdwny.org for information about other local virtual events.