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.
Idahoans are invited to celebrate World Refugee Day this month!
Attendees will have an opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine from Saint Alphonsus. (Click here for information about the clinic in multiple languages.)
Boise’s event will take a new shape this year with traveling block parties featuring dance workshops, free food from refugee- and immigrant-owned food trucks, Darjeeling Momo and Machu Picchu Peruvian Cuisine, as well as ice cream from Crazy Cow Ice Cream Co.
The Makatas Dancers, an African dance group, will perform at the first three block parties, and the Mladi Behar Bosnian dance group will lead a workshop at the final block party at the Idaho Capital Asian Market Plaza.
In Twin Falls, nine countries will be represented through food, dance and poetry. The event is important because it gives local citizens and resettled refugees a chance to connect and get to know each other firsthand, said Zeze Rwasama, director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs.
Without intentionality, it’s easy to lose language skills and other traditions when growing up in a new country, said Maya Duravic, who is part of the Bosnian dance group, Mladi Behar, that will lead workshops during Boise’s World Refugee Day. The other group that will perform, The Makatas (pictured above from 2018), will showcase African dances.
Maya's family resettled in Boise when she was 11. 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.
“I’m really happy that we arrived to the states in a time where keeping our cultural roots is something that’s not to be ashamed of and we’re not made to forget that,” Maya said. “We’re encouraged to share that with our neighbors so they can get to know us in a different light than ‘oh, we’re just poor refugees.’ They get to know us as more than that.”
The events are sponsored by: