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Reflections on World Refugee Day

Photo Credit: ASmith/IRC

For over 20 years, we have observed World Refugee Day annually on June 20th. This year is no different as refugee resettlement agencies, allies, and community members continue to support and welcome refugees to the United States.

World Refugee Day is a moment when we pause to recognize the diverse experiences and lives of refugees and lift their unique voices. It is also a moment for each of us to refocus on our mission to support refugees and challenge ourselves and each other to ensure that the future of the refugee resettlement program is intersectional, empowering, and durable.

Refugee Voices is an IRC platform for former refugees and New Americans to advocate, tell their story, volunteer, or take other actions in support of refugee programs in the U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, asylees, parolees and other people who have been displaced from their countries are also invited to participate in the initiative. Refugee Voices is led by an Advisory Committee that is currently comprised of eight individuals across several IRC offices who provide guidance to the overall initiative.

We asked former refugees and New Americans to share what World Refugee Day means to them.

“World Refugee Day is one of my favorite days! This event reminds me of the challenging trip my family and I had to take seeking safe haven, a new home where we can live in peace, and home that warmly welcome us. It is also a day where I meet other refugees, hear their stories, and unite to speak for those who are still on the resettlement path knowing almost all their struggles and feeling their pain! And it’s an important platform for Refugees to share the success and the contribution that Refugees have to offer to this great Country!” Rayan Kaskos, Early Employment Supervisor & IRC Refugee Voice, IRC San Diego

“World Refugee Day is a day to celebrate with those who are able to enjoy freedom and to support, serve, and advocate for the other millions of refugees who are still holding on to hope of a better tomorrow.” – Monom Teekham, Associate Director of Financial Management & IRC Refugee Voice, IRC New York

“World Refugee Day for me is a moment to reflect, celebrate, and act. I reflect upon the situation in our world and think about all those refugees who are forced to leave their homes and are displaced now and often no longer welcome in many countries. I celebrate the resilience and courage of refugees, and I also act to raise awareness in my community and engage in advocacy for the refugee cause. For me as a former refugee, this day always brings back memories of the time when I started my new life in freedom in this country, and as a mother I never stop teaching my sons humanness, so that wherever they go and whatever they do, they are good and humble human beings in the first place, and they know how to help others and value peace and freedom.”
Dina Bostandzic, Language Access and Cultural Orientation Coordinator & IRC Refugee Voice, IRC Sacramento

“For me World Refugee Day is a special day to reflect and learn about the struggles and resilience of those of us that had to flee our birth countries out of necessity. The stories of resilience despite the hard situations people were placed in are so inspirational and are what drives me to keep contributing to IRC’s mission.” – Adnan Suvalic, IT Director of DevOps & IRC Refugee Voice, IRC New York

“While the memories of my journey as a refugee are with me every day, World Refugee Day offers a concrete moment to take time to reflect on the plight of all people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. While World Refugee Day is an important day to celebrate the courage, resilience, and contributions of refugees to their new communities, I see it as a day of action to bring awareness and advocate for the protection and rights of refugees, uplift and empower refugee voices on this day and beyond, and recommit ourselves to working toward more just and equitable resettlement and integration initiatives around the world to better recognize the diverse experiences of those whose lives have been uprooted by conflict, persecution, and disasters.”
Senka Filipovic, Global Corporate Partnerships & IRC Refugee Voice, IRC New York

As we approach World Refugee Day, we encourage you to pause and reflect on the lives and experiences of refugees. Ask yourself why you started the work that you do – reset your intentions and commitment to the work that you do each day to support refugees in their journey to rebuild their lives.

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