Today, the New American Center celebrated World Refugee Day. About 100 clients from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bhutan, Burma, Haiti, Eretria, Somalia, Congo, CAR, Dominican Republic, Burundi, and many other countries were present at the event. Among the guest speakers were Mary Truong, Executive Director of MA Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Brendan Crighton, State Representative, and Dan Cahill, President of the Lynn City Council. They were overjoyed to be present for another World Refugee Day celebration. They each took a few moments to speak on the topic of providing better access to education, healthcare, and jobs in the city of Lynn and in MaMassachusetts. Every audience member was encouraged to contact our city officials, government officials and ORI for any concerns or needs they may have. At the end of his speech, Dan Cahill very proudly proclaimed, "This country was built by refugees, built by immigrants. I am so happy that you are here."
Before the celebration began, Natasha Soolkin, RCAM Regional Director, stood and took an informal role-call. As she called out each country represented at the New American Center, she playfully encouraged each group to raise their hands. After lots of laughter and smiles, she ended with this statement: "Welcome to your home."
Organisations were presented awards to recognize their diligent work in serving the refugee community. We also heard from a few local refugee community members, who spoke and performed music which told their individual stores from their motherland, and their journey to the USA.
One Individual was Taha Albadri, an Iraqi Refugee and actor. In Iraq, he worked as an actor for more than 45 years in TV and cinema. He spoke of his four children - three sons and one daughter, and the atrocity of losing two of his sons to the violence in Iraq and Syria. As an elder, he reflected on the struggles of being outside the available job market due to age and language barriers, as well as the challenges to understand Mass Health and the gaps in the services insurance will cover. As a fellow refugee, he was able to speak to the stories of many - both young and old. Taha Albadri wanted everyone to know that "every Refugee here has a story, and I am [just] one of those stories." Looking over the audience, he ended his speech by saying, "Despite the adversity I have faced, I find freedom in the USA and I find the humanity that we lost. I hope for my grandchildren to build the future that we missed." Mr. Albadri speaks to the hope of all who walk through our doors, and the reason that we all at the New American Center need to keep building together.