The Central Alberta Refugee Effort and Catholic Social Services, together known as the Immigrant Centre, marked World Refugee Day with a collage of refugees and refugee advocates. The photo project was called #love4refugees. Contributed photo

Red Deerians mark World Refugee Day online

Local agencies wanted this year’s World Refugee Day to be about love and inclusivity.

Catholic Social Services and the Central Alberta Refugee Effort, together known as the Immigrant Centre, hosted online activities to mark the day on Saturday.

The Immigrant Centre posted a photo project called #love4refugees on the effort’s Facebook page. This project featured a collage of refugees and refugee advocates.

“We wanted to put a human face on the refugees that are here living in Red Deer and area,” said Jan Underwood, the group’s public awareness co-ordinator.

“Quite often, people are afraid of what they don’t know and perhaps afraid of making friends with someone of a different culture.

“If you get to know a person a little bit more, whether it be by a story that we share or a chat that they hear, then it brings those faces more to life.”

Discussions that were live-streamed over the past three Wednesdays, in addition to a pre-recorded interview, were available on Facebook as well.

These activities were held online due to COVID-19.

Underwood said a benefit of World Refugee Day events going virtual, is the ability to reach a wider audience.

“For the whole month of June, we’ve been doing culture chats (online) with people who came here as refugees. We’ve actually had people watching from different countries.

“One of our staff is from Zimbabwe, and her brother was able to tune in. We’re reaching thousands of people, rather than hundreds. The interesting outcome is that the reach is far more.”

One of the Immigrant Centre’s goals is to encourage the community to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible, Underwood said, adding this message is as important as ever with anti-racism protests taking place across the world.

“People of colour, for years and years, have been discriminated against. Our goal is to change that, to make a difference and make things better. I think this is really relevant with what’s happening in the world right now.”

There are still millions of “refugees or displaced people” in the world, said Underwood.

“It’s important that Canada opens its doors to refugees, I believe, even though times have changed a bit during COVID,” she said.

“In the future, as we open up again, it would be an advantage to everybody to keep bringing in people that are in a refugee position.”

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