by Nicola Crawford, Refugee School Impact Grant VISTA Member
World Refugee is this Wednesday, June 20th. Every year the world honors the courage, resilience, and determination of refugees. Events around the community, nation and world gather people to honor and remember the refugees globally and in our communities.
On Monday, Kent School District Refugee Transition Center, Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) and Refugee Youth Empowered screened the film A Place in the World. The documentary, not yet publicly released, is about the International Community School in Georgia, in a community with 60,000 refugees and immigrants representing 150 ethnic groups. The school is committed to being a truly international school, and as the principal said in the film, they view the refugee background of students as an asset instead of a liability. It might have been Kent School District, which has students speaking more than 130 languages and educators committed to supporting their students. The event drew more than 150 attendees, with wide community support from refugee students and families, educators, the superintendent and the mayor of Kent. It was an honor to be part of such a group, and when the film, a perfect example of the power of stories to raise awareness, becomes available publicly, it will be well worth watching
As part of the screening, there was a panel of refugee youth, representing Burma, Bhutan and Iraq, the three fastest growing refugee populations in Washington, as well as Beth Farmer from Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Clair Chean of the Kent School District Refugee Transition Center. They spoke of how refugees flee because they have no other choice, and of what World Refugee Day means to them. This is what the youth said.
World Refugee Day…
Is when ‘we recall past life and stories and how we got to this point’
Allows ‘me to tell stories to others and express my feelings to others’
Is a ‘Day to (be) aware, of who refugees are and what it is like to be a refugee’
At School’s Out, we honor World Refugee Day while also believing that awareness has to go beyond one day a year. In May, we hosted screenings of our film Starting Again: Stories of Refugee Youth at Rainier Beach Library and Kent School District. The film was produced through our Refugee School Impact Grant which funds district-community partnerships to serve refugee students and to increase skills of parents, educators and communities to support refugee students. The film highlights four youth from Burma, Nepal/Bhutan, Russia and Somalia (pictured, below) and their experience settling into school and life in the Puget Sound area.
At each event there were more than 50 participants including educators, high school students, college students, staff from resettlement agencies, church members and nonprofit and community members. The response and enthusiasm for these screenings and accompanying refugee youth panels was encouraging as participants discussed how better to support and ease the transition for refugee youth and families in our communities and schools.
The film is available for viewing on our website. If you’d like to set up a screening and facilitated discussion about the film in your community, please contact Pang Chang at (206) 323-2396.
How will you honor World Refugee Day this year? And throughout the year?