TASTE OF AFRICA, SONG FROM ASIA: New Americans, friends to mark World Refugee Day at Farmers MarketIt’s the third "World Refugee Day" celebration Saturday in Grand Forks, the second to be held at Town Square. "Come and talk with these new Americans," said Cynthia Shabb, program director for the Global Friends Coalition, a sponsor of World Refugee Day locally. "Find out a little about them."
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
Specials at the Town Square Farmers Market in Grand Forks on Saturday: fried sweet potato bread from Burundi, Nepali tea, falafel in the Iraqi style and Liberian cakes.
There will be drummers and dancers, including dancing children from Liberia, and Mon Bista, a young man from Bhutan, will sing songs from the top of the world.
It’s the third “World Refugee Day” celebration in Grand Forks, the second to be held at Town Square.
“We’re hoping for a good weather day and a good turnout,” said Cynthia Shabb, program director for the Global Friends Coalition, a sponsor of World Refugee Day locally.
“Come and talk with these new Americans,” she said. “Find out a little about them.”
The day’s activities are sponsored by the Global Friends Coalition, New American Services and Bremer Bank.
The Global Friends Coalition, a non-profit organization, helps refugees integrate into the local community through volunteer mentors, English language tutoring, advocacy and special events, such as World Refugee Day and an annual “meet your neighbors” picnic in University Park.
New American Services, a program of Lutheran Social Services, helps refugees establish homes in North Dakota after the U.S. government has authorized their admission to the country.
Since 1997, the federal government and New American Services have resettled 463 international refugees in Grand Forks.
“Refugees are the people who flee their homeland against their will, chased out of their villages and towns and separated from their families by conflict or persecution,” Shabb said.
“This day is meant to showcase all the new talent we have in Grand Forks, to highlight the musical talent and have them show off their native dress and do that in a proud manner. We also want to raise awareness that we have refugees here and the reasons why they left their own countries.”
The flow of refugees to Grand Forks and other resettlement destinations in the United States has slowed this year due to increased restrictions imposed by federal agencies, including more stringent background checks.
Grand Forks had expected to receive 80 to 90 new refugees this fiscal year, through September, but so far only 38 have arrived, Shabb said.
“Nationwide, we were supposed to get 75,000 in 2011, but we have gotten just 60,000,” she said.
The Grand Forks refugee numbers do not include “secondary migration” arrivals, people who initially settled elsewhere in the country and later moved here.
Since it was established in 2000 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, World Refugee Day has become an annual celebration in more than 100 countries, recognizing “the courage of refugees and the contributions they make daily to their communities,” Shabb said.
Mayor Michael Brown will open the program at 10 a.m. by announcing awards for organizations, businesses and individuals who have shown support for international refugees who have settled in Grand Forks.
Some of the refugees will take the field at Bringewatt Park at 5 p.m. for the city’s second annual refugee soccer game.
“They’ve been practicing three times a week,” Shabb said.
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to chaga [at] gfherald.com.