GREENSBORO — A group of former refugees is giving back this weekend as part of World Refugee Day activities, which are also going virtual this year.
Usually there's music, dance and even a soccer tournament, as resettlement agencies and others sponsored a number of events locally. A group of refugees also traveled to Raleigh to speak to legislators about issues that concern them.
But COVID-19 changed all of that.
This year, there will be a Virtual Town Hall on Zoom on Saturday with local and state elected officials, and on Sunday a Day of Giving providing food, face masks and hand sanitizer to some of the neediest refugees by a grassroots group known as the Integration Working Group.
"We all think we can help each other and amplify our voices," said Adamou Mohamed, a community organizing coordinator with Church World Service and member of the Integration Working Group.
Globally, World Refugee Day celebrates people whose lives were saved because they found a place to start their lives over. A majority of the refugees are women and children.
First established by the United Nations in 2001, in this country the day also celebrates the courage and contributions of refugees who have been resettled by the American government from other countries.
Saturday's virtual Town Hall is from 1-2:30 p.m. and includes state legislators, the mayors of High Point and Greensboro, faith leaders from the refugee community, health care workers on the front lines of the response against COVID-19 and a survivor of the deadly virus, and will allow for those in the audience to ask questions. The discussion is focused on responding to the needs of refugees impacted by the pandemic.
It is sponsored by various groups, including the New Arrivals Institute, IAC Greensboro, UNCG Center for New North Carolinians, Elon Law Clinic, North Carolina African Services Coalition, CWS Greensboro Refugee Program, and the Montagnard American Organization.The event will highlight the different countries represented in the Triad, as well as background music celebrating those countries, Mohamed said.
Issues expected to be discussed range from an extended ban on evictions to help refugees and their neighbors to emergency licensing for health care workers who come into the country with their medical backgrounds but aren't able to practice without starting over here, he said.
The Integration Working Group's Day of Giving giveaway is symbolic, Mohamed said. So many people are struggling, but the group wanted to do something.
Members of the grassroots group, which includes former refugees and immigrants now working on issues affecting the refugee and immigrant community, took up a collection among themselves and raised about $300. They spent months identifying some of the most vulnerable families in the refugee and immigrant community.
The items are mostly going to the elderly and disabled, and families where the parents are now unemployed.
That group, working with the Islamic Center of the Triad, is giving out 50 boxes with the food and items, although they are still looking for more hand sanitizer to purchase.
"Those who were served yesterday are giving back today," said Jennifer Bulankey, one of the Integration Working Group members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The group, made up of former refugees fleeing violence, persecution and poverty, already holds Zoom classes providing information to refugees, including COVID-19 and navigating the pandemic unemployment compensation. The members come from Central African Republic, Congo DRC, Sudan, Uganda, Togo, Bhutan, Ethiopia and Mexico.
Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.