World Refugee Week takes place in Red Deer on June 18 and 20. Former refugees (left to right) Elzbieta Sawicka

World Refugee Week takes place in Red Deer on June 18 and 20. Former refugees (left to right) Elzbieta Sawicka

Celebrate World Refugee Day over two days this year

Red Deer is doing June 20, World Refugee Day, a little differently this year. Instead of hosting a fifth year of a simulated Refugee Camp that the public tour for an eye-opening, first-hand experience, the Central Alberta Refugee Effort and partners are celebrating the first World Refugee Week in the city on June 18 and 20.

Red Deer is doing June 20, World Refugee Day, a little differently this year.

Instead of hosting a fifth year of a simulated Refugee Camp that the public tour for an eye-opening, first-hand experience, the Central Alberta Refugee Effort and partners are celebrating the first World Refugee Week in the city on June 18 and 20.

A number of public activities — all free — have been planned, including a cultural cafe, personal presentations and singing, dancing, drumming and henna tattoos, as well as a choir and speakers at Veteran’s Park.

“It’s the first year we’re doing Refugee Day as more of a collaborative undertaking,” said Elxbieta Sawicka, manager of community connections at CARE.

“It’s an important day to recognize, knowing the situation out there in the world is not getting better, that there are more refugees out there every year in need of help and some of those people come here and establish themselves. We want to feature those people.”

Sawicka said the Refugee Camp model hasn’t been permanently retried as a Refugee Day event and may make a comeback next year, and on an alternating basis in the future.

Jan Underwood, CARE’s public awareness co-ordinator and a settlement practitioner, added the new series of events is to acknowledge “the value refugees have given to us in many ways and the richness in diversity they have contributed.”

William Gabriel, a longtime volunteer with CARE and a settlement counsellor with the immigration unit at Catholic Social Services, has been involved with Red Deer’s Refugee Day festivities for a number of years.

A refugee from Sudan who spent two years in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, Gabriel said he believes in sharing his story to help other immigrants and refugees know they are not alone and that he can relate to them.

“Since I lived it, I tell them they can make it, too. I tell them to put their plans in order, one in front of the other so they can move on because if you dwell on the past it will impact your progress in Canada. … Use your experience in a positive context,” Gabriel, 37, said. “I use my story also to educate people who have no clue what refugees go through. It’s not like what you see on TV.”

Gabriel came to Canada in 2003. He had fled Sudan because of the civil war and fear when the government began targeting students to support the military.

“I was in Sudan, in the seminary, and life was beautiful for a time. Then suddenly I was in the UN office in Nairobi and then I was taken to the refugee camp, and life was completely opposite and difficult, horrible and I couldn’t imagine living there for all this time but I still had an advantage because I had my people with me and I was there only for two years. There are people that are there for five or 10 years.”

World Refugee Day brings back the reality of those years for Gabriel and spurs him to let others know about the challenges refugees still face today.

“The aim is to reach out,” he said of June 20.

Gabriel hopes that having two days of events instead of the traditional Refugee Camp activity will mean more participation from the wider Red Deer community.

The week will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on June 18 with special guest Ethel Suarez telling her refugee journey at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

June 20 will consist of an open house at the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association (CAIWA), dozens of cultural happenings at Veteran’s Park from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and a “table talk” at The Hub on Ross from 3 to 5 p.m. where anyone can have a seat with former refugees and learn about their journeys.

“We’re inviting everyone in the community to come see what we do at CAIWA and find out more about our programs, including our new one on financial literacy, as well as hear refugees’ stories,” said Margarita Fuentes at CAIWA.

She said she hopes the open house peels back negative stereotypes and prejudice when it comes to immigrants and refugees and opens up a supportive community dialogue.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay MANDATORY CREDIT
Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

People cheer after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

Most Read