World Refugee Day celebrated across the U.S.

A Burmese refugee family who resettled in the United States just three years ago chose World Refugee Day 2010 as an occasion to say thank you with a $200 donation to Church World Service for helping them during their first months in their new country.

Lancaster World Refugee Day
At Lancaster World Refugee Day, Kaung Sitt Naing and Witt Mhone Phue, with their 7-year-old daughter, present a check for $200 to Sheila McGeehan. Photo:  Jackie Sahd/CWS.

See also our slideshow of events across the U.S.

A Burmese refugee family who resettled in the United States just three years ago chose World Refugee Day 2010 as an occasion to say thank you with a $200 donation to Church World Service for helping them during their first months in their new country.


Kaung Sitt Naing and his wife Witt Mhone Phue, refugees from Burma, were resettled to Massachusetts in August 2007.  A month later, they relocated to Lancaster, Pa., to join friends who had been resettled by CWS-Lancaster.

They were assisted by staff and volunteers of CWS-Lancaster, including Elena Seiffert, who helped Witt find a housekeeping position; members of St. Peter's United Church of Christ, and a number of community members including Aaron and Jill Shiley.  Kaung found a job at a pretzel warehouse, where he has worked for the past two years.

The couple’s surprise gift of $200 "is especially generous in light of the fact that the family only arrived to the United States in 2007," commented CWS-Lancaster Director Sheila McGeehan.

"In addition, the family recently became first time home owners! As Kaung and Witt intended, this donation will be used to help new Burmese refugee arrivals to Lancaster. Thank you, Kaung and Witt, for sacrificing to make the way easier for others," said McGeehan.

Lancaster’s World Refugee Day event, held June 19, was among observances across the U.S. and worldwide on or around June 20, the date officially designated by the United Nations.

"It was really hot, but we had over 700 people in and out throughout the four-hour period," McGeehan said. "A city councilman came and read a proclamation from the mayor. We ran out of all of the prepared Bhutanese, Burmese, and Cuban food. We had Burmese, Iraqi, and Bhutanese singing and dance. We had a sitar player and a multicultural drum circle, Nepali basket weaving demonstrations, henna art, face painting and handmade Burmese clothing for sale."

You can view the Lancaster World Refugee Day 2010 photo gallery on Facebook.

Other multicultural festivals and educational programs sponsored or cosponsored by local refugee resettlement affiliates of Church World Service to celebrate World Refugee Day included:

•  A party organized by Refugee Services of Texas and held at the Ivanhoe Apartment Complex in Dallas, where RST houses new refugee arrivals.  "Keyboard player Jihad Ahmed, RST’s Iraqi case manager, sang Iraqi songs and showed us a few Iraqi dances.  It was so much fun.  Both staff and clients who participated had a blast!" remarked RST’s Lee Abdi.

•  A tour of the new Community Nourishment Garden in Knoxville, Tenn., organized by Bridge Refugee Services.  The garden produce--everything from apples and blueberries to tomatoes and peppers--will go entirely to local refugees, many of whom participate in the growing process.  Also, drums were provided for refugees and volunteers of all ages to enjoy during the event.

•  Events also took place in Louisville, Ky.; Denver, Colo.; Greensboro, N.C.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Houston, Texas; Omaha, Neb., and Syracuse, N.Y.  Read more:  Communities across the U.S. to mark World Refugee Day.

Since its founding in 1946, Church World Service, along with its local affiliate agencies and its participating denominations and their congregations, has helped nearly 500,000 refugees begin new lives in the United States, more than 7,000 of them in 2009.

U.S. congregations and communities can help refugees "come home" by volunteering with new arrivals and by urging their members of Congress to support such legislation as the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113).  Visit www.churchworldservice.org/refugees for more information.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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