Kids in the REACH summer program this week got an opportunity to canoe and paddleboard, set up tents and interact with nature at Esther Simplot Park in Boise.
We had the joy of partnering with Ellis Nanney, executive director of Grow Outdoor Access. Ellis provided the outdoor gear and expertise. For some of the kids in the REACH program (Refugees Empowered to Achieve), it was their first time setting up a tent or riding a paddleboard.
“My goal, as someone who grew up in Idaho and experienced having access to all the wonderful outdoor activities we have, I just want … everyone to kind of have that same opportunity and not be limited because they don’t have the proper gear,” Ellis said. (Learn more about the program in this great feature by Idaho News 6.)
Our group had a blast. There was a mix of children from refugee and U.S. backgrounds, and volunteers from the Idaho Office for Refugees, Boise State University, Glocal and the community.
At Esther Simplot Park, the kids and volunteers split up into four groups and rotated stations:
We also enjoyed hearing from Amanda Reedy, a therapist with Tidwell, as she taught the kids about using their five senses to be present in their bodies and help calm anxiety.
Joel Ryman with partner organization Gates of Hope also led a cool exercise involving the whole group to recreate the rising and falling sounds of a rainstorm — showing the group how every person’s contributions matter and can be used to build up or to tear down.
We’re thankful for this supportive community and for the beautiful opportunities we have in Idaho to connect with nature and with each other.
The U.S. State Department is calling for the intimidation and attacks in Ethiopia's Tigray region to stop, Reuters reports.
"We are deeply concerned about credible reports of attacks by military forces affiliated with the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Tigrayan militias against Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region," State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.
More than 275 Eritrean refugees have been resettled in Idaho in the past decade, representing 4% of total resettlement statewide. That includes one person from Eritrea who arrived in Idaho this month.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed extreme worry for the roughly 24,000 Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region who "are facing intimidation and harassment and living in constant anguish, cut off from humanitarian assistance," the agency's website says.
Fighting broke out in the region in November, Reuters reports; thousands of people have died and around 2 million have been displaced, while more than 5 million rely on emergency food aid.
UNHCR is pushing for immediate humanitarian access and safety for aid workers attempting to provide life-saving assistance.
Reshma Kamal is planning out which dishes she'll have ready on July 20. There’s biryani, a rice dish. It’s her mom’s recipe — “and it’s spicy,” she said. There is korma, a meat and gravy dish. Don’t forget the naan, beef and chicken kabobs, and sweet dishes.
“It’s a festival,” Reshma said. “People are coming to your home, and they want variety.”
Eid al-Adha, one of the two main holidays celebrated by Muslims, starts on Tuesday, July 20, this year. Because only 1% of Idahoans are Muslim (an estimated 18,300 residents), the broader population, including many employers, might not realize the significance of this holiday.
Called the “Festival of Sacrifice,” this three-day holiday reflects on Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God; however, just before he was about to take his son’s life, God provided a ram for him to sacrifice instead.
Families traditionally celebrate by sacrificing an animal — perhaps a goat, lamb, cow or camel — which is divided into three parts. One third goes to one's own family, one third goes to friends and one third goes to people in need.
“In Boise, a lot of people go to farms and they do their own sacrifice,” Reshma said. “On the other hand, many send money back home to have it done. But it’s required for everyone who can afford it.”
The holiday coincides with Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that is required of every Muslim at least once in their lifetime. The only other major holiday in Islam is Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Not everyone celebrates Eid the same way — the Muslim community has a diversity of backgrounds, cultures and languages.
In Boise, Tuesday morning will start out with prayers at the mosque. After chatting and having some snacks together — and maybe grabbing a coffee with friends on the way home, Reshma said — it’s time to finish preparing the food and get ready for any guests that might drop by. Around dinner time, smaller groups may gather at a community clubhouse or meeting place for a potluck.
“The biggest significance of (Eid al-Adha) is the sacrifices that we make in our lives to follow what the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, says, just like the story of Prophet Abraham and his son,” Reshma said. “Simple things — be on the right path, be honest, be sincere, be good to your neighbors.”
Reshma, the mother of two daughters, also reflects on her gratitude for the good things in life. “The blessings of having a roof over your head, or not worrying about getting up in the morning and thinking, what am I going to feed my kids?” she said. “Simple things of life.”
WATCH: Idaho Office for Refugee's data management specialist Malak Al Fatal shared about her Eid experience with Idaho News 6:
Please join us in welcoming Jose Martinez as the new project manager for Global Talent. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Jose has an extensive international business background and first-hand experience navigating Idaho’s job market.
Global Talent, a program of the Idaho Office for Refugees, helps college-educated new Americans reclaim their professional careers in Idaho. Through the program, job seekers have access to personalized training and career coaching, and Idaho employers are connected to a larger pool of skilled workers.
Jose replaces Ashley Davis, who led Global Talent for almost four years and is now on to her next adventure: backpacking across Idaho.
“Our recovering economy stands to benefit now more than ever from the education, multilingualism and years of experience that Global Talent job seekers bring to our state,” Ashley said, “and Jose is well-positioned to help local businesses make these hiring connections."
Jose himself is an alumnus of the Global Talent program. Married for 23 years with three children, Jose and his family decided to make Idaho their home and are more than happy with that decision.
Global Talent is also excited to announce that Heather Webster has stepped into the role of Employment Services Associate. Heather grew up in Boise and attended Biola University in Los Angeles, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies, Secondary Education, and Social Science.
Heather moved back to the Pacific Northwest where she continued working with culturally diverse communities in the education and the nonprofit sector. She brings to Global Talent a wide spanning network of professional contacts and hands-on experience coaching individuals to reach their full potential. Heather is passionate about making the Treasure Valley a place where all people can live, work, and thrive.
Since 2015, Global Talent has:
To learn more and contact Global Talent, visit glotalent.org or connect with Jose at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week there are two events in downtown Boise to help you beat the heat and expand your cultural perspectives:
Movie night with Agency for New Americans
Watch "This Is Home: A Refugee Story," about four Syrian refugee families finding their way in America.
Bosnian Culture & Cuisine
UPDATE: This event has sold out
In the 1990s, more than half of the refugees resettled in Idaho were from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Learn about Bosnian culture and its prevalence in the Treasure Valley in this multi-station program featuring food, dance and history.
Photos by Daniel Olson Photography, courtesy City of Boise
Thank you to everyone who made World Refugee Day Boise so special this year! The community came together at four traveling block parties throughout Boise on Saturday. We enjoyed Nepalese and Peruvian food and Liberian and Bosnian dance performances. We laughed, ate ice cream, found shade wherever possible and enjoyed each other’s company after a year of not getting to gather in person for the annual event.
“It means a lot for advocacy and reconnecting with the community and celebrating what new community members that we have," emcee and Boise State student Halima Hamud told Idaho News 6.
Another exciting aspect of the event — 64 people got vaccinated against COVID-19 during the block party outside Civic Plaza apartments. Members of Neighbors United — a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations that supports refugee resettlement in Idaho — came together to make the mobile clinic a success.
Saint Alphonsus health care workers along with interpreters staffed the clinic, and Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health supported the purchase of $100 WinCo gift cards for all vaccine recipients. Global Gardens, a program for refugee and immigrant farmers under the Idaho Office for Refugees, provided gift baskets full of produce for anyone who came to the clinic to seek more information about the vaccine.
Saint Alphonsus will be back in the same spot in the coming weeks to provide the booster shot to those who were vaccinated. Knowing that more people are now protected against sickness from COVID-19 is a cause for celebration, said Idaho Office for Refugees Director Tara Wolfson.
“Thank you to everyone who pitched in,” she said, “from creating and handing out flyers ... to bringing a friend, interpreting for people, to moving tables, chairs, vegetables, getting people food and water in line on a sweltering day and more.”
We held four smaller gatherings this year as an extra step of caution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re excited to be all together in one place again for next year’s World Refugee Day event. Mark your calendars for June 18, 2022, at the Grove Plaza in downtown Boise.
Shout out to our amazing partners who sponsor World Refugee Day:
Idaho News 6: Celebrating World Refugee Day in Boise with a cultural block party
"It is a lot more fun if we are seeing the crowd's reaction and we can feel their energy," said the Makatas Dancers coach. "It is a little more fun when you are in person so this is great, this is fantastic."
KTVB: World Refugee Day celebration held at Sunset Park
"Last year we couldn't celebrate in person, so it's nice that we're able to do so this year in addition to coming out of COVID," said Georgette Siqueiros, the community engagement coordinator at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Boise. "This year's also a really great year for refugee resettlement. We're seeing a return to historic norms, as far as the number of people that were allowed to resettle in the U.S., so we're very excited about that."
Times-News: Hidden no more: Residents gather for Refugee Day
Twin Falls residents Kasi and Erik Allen come to the refugee event every year.
“I think it’s the most special event our community has each year,” Kasi Allen said.
Allen said it’s fun to try the different foods each year and see the community supporting refugees.
“I think it helps to have more visibility,” Allen said. “So often I think Twin Falls has diversity but it’s hidden.”
Idaho Capital Sun: ‘Thankful to God, I’m safe.’ Three refugees became Idahoans. Here are their stories
Azad Ghulami, 37
Azad, a Hazara refugee from the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan, arrived in Boise in March. He came alone, without his wife or 7-year-old daughter. He doesn’t know how long it will take to reunite with them here, he said. But he’s trying to be patient. He is just starting to build a life here. He found a security job at a call center and got a driver’s license. “Thankful to God, I’m safe and arrived in this country," he said.
Halima Hamud, 22
Halima is on track to graduate next May from Boise State University, after becoming one of just five BSU students to win the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
“For me, I want to continue my advocacy work for refugee women, and I want to go to graduate school and work on some learning about public policy, and learning about international work,” she said.
Palina Louangketh, 44
Palina is working to build the Idaho Museum of the International Diaspora in Boise — an interactive museum to share the stories of refugees through art, food, music, film and more. She was inspired by her own family’s two-year journey from Laos. “Nobody wants to leave their home,” she said. “That’s why it’s called their home.”
Idaho News 6: 'Everybody has a different journey'
Joetta Julugbeh, Miss Africa Idaho 2019 and a captain for the Makatas Dancers, says celebrating World Refugee Day in person is important to share everybody's unique journey. “With everything that is going on and sometimes it’s hard as a black woman for people to see the good,” she said, “and World Refugee Day is one of those events where you see everyone together and it's exactly what it’s supposed to be like."
The Treasure Valley will celebrate World Refugee Day on June 26. The annual tradition celebrates the resilience of people who were displaced from their homes but through perseverance have rebuilt a life for themselves and their families.
It's a day of togetherness and a chance to share in different traditions, said Fowzia, who will co-emcee the event.
“People are still connected to their culture so deeply, and others get to learn about it,” she said.
Fowzia, who grew up in Somalia and Kenya, is now raising her 4-year-old daughter in Boise. She’s intentional about teaching her daughter to speak Somali. She wants her to be able to speak with her grandparents without an interpreter.
“Not knowing the language creates a disconnect between the older generation and the younger generation,” Fowzia said, “and there’s so much to learn from the older generation.”
After a year of not getting to gather much in person, Lana Graybeal said World Refugee Day will bring moments of joy and celebration.
“For me it’s bringing everyone together, sharing our food, sharing our music, our stories and our collective love for our city that we call home,” she said.
Lana, the city of Boise’s refugee community liaison, was resettled in the U.S. in 1990 with her parents and brother. They share an Armenian heritage.
“Boise’s been a city that’s welcomed refugees for a long time," Lana said. "The heritage of resettlement really enriches who we are.”
The gathering celebrates the light at the end of the tunnel and the communities that banded together to help each other rebuild, she said.
Maya was 11 when her family was resettled in Boise. She remembers receiving jackets and toys from complete strangers during the holidays. The Basque Center offered space so she and other Bosnian children could practice dancing while their parents chatted in their native language and worked on the uniforms.
“It makes me feel grateful to live in a place where so many people truly care to help others succeed,” she said.
Maya said she’s thankful she wasn’t made to feel ashamed of her culture or pushed to forget it. Sharing her traditions with others builds deeper understanding.
“They can get to know us in a different light than, oh, we’re just poor refugees,” she said. “They get to know us as more than that.”
Maya is a dancer with Mladi Behar, which will lead a dance workshop during the World Refugee Day block party at the Idaho Capital Asian Market, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 26. Click below to see the full schedule of events.
Details are available in multiple languages below. Please pass along to your friends and family who might find this helpful!
No appointment is needed, but you can save time by preregistering online. Click here to sign up.
Thank you to Saint Alphonsus and Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health for partnering with us to help keep the community connected and safe.
To learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, please click here.
Community members gathered at Twin Falls City Park on Friday, June 18, to celebrate the local refugee community and connect with new people. Nine countries were represented through food, music, dance and poetry.
“We love for people to try our traditional foods,” Noor Zohiry, who served food at the Iraq tent with her husband, told the Times-News. (Check out that great feature and pictures here.)
Hundreds of people gathered for the event, which was spread out throughout the park and hosted by the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs. Kids played water games and got their faces painted with colorful designs, while adults chatted over dinner.
“I think it’s the most special event our community has each year,” attendee Kasi Allen told the Times-News.
It was great to be together again, especially after last year's event was all online to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Boise's World Refugee Day block parties are coming up this Saturday, June 26. Learn more here.