According to UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), there are more than 50 million refugees around the world, half of which are women and children. Especially today, Buffalo has become a city of immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Normally, World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20. According to its planning committee, Buffalo will be celebrating this special day on May 28th , 2016. Different games and cultural activities are scheduled, and all refugee communities in Buffalo are called to participate.
According to the committee, the dates have been changed this year for various reasons.
“Last year we had Muslim players who could not participate because of Ramadan,” said Ali Kadhum, one of organizing committee members. “This year, we decided to celebrate the World Refugee Day on June 4. We have almost five teams who are Muslim and would not be able to participate if we celebrated on June 20. That’s why we wanted to have teams from all communities participate.”
“That’s a safe date, because the weekend before that is Memorial Day weekend,” said J. Phillips, another organizing committee member. “So you wouldn’t want to move it back any earlier because people will be doing things for the holiday”
Last year, the event was well organized, as many families cooked food and came to share it with others.
“They bring their children and other adults from the community. It’s a chance for people to intermingle,” Phillips said. “There’s one group that comes every year and does their own cookouts and they share with everyone.”
“It’s on Saturday as well as Sunday,” added Phillips. “World Refugee Day gives people on the outside an opportunity to see the culture and diversity. I’ve been there for a few years, and I have seen it expand and I’ve seen more participation. Obviously as the refugee community grows in Erie County, this seems to be growing more each year.”
This year, the objective of this event was to have a full-day soccer tournament at LaSalle Park and kids activities during the day. The following day featured cultural events, like dancing and singing. World Refugee Day has become a real multicultural event, and involves new refugees every year.
“We want to celebrate people who add great diversity to our communities, make them feel welcome, and learn about their cultures,” said Stephanie Sacco, one of the committee organizers this year.
Mayor Byron Brown gave a proclamation in recognition of the event at his annual State of the City Address this year, and the important population that it represents.
“We need your help to make this bigger and better than last year,” Kadhum said. “This year we are going to be adding more sports, kids activities, food, and cultural performances. We are still in the planning stages, so you can join us and help decide on what we will do.”
All community members living in Buffalo are invited to join and help the organizing committee. Whether you are new to the area or you have been in Buffalo all your life, we hope you can make contributions to support the many different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultural groups in Western New York.
The next planning meeting is Thursday, February 18th, from 5 to 6:30 p.m at the Niagara Branch Library, 280 Porter Ave.