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USAHello World Refugee Day

June 20 is World Refugee Day.

The United Nations designated June 20 as the international day to celebrate World Refugee Day. On this day, we take actions to support people who are forced to flee their homes as a result of war, violence and persecution.

Hundreds of organizations all over the world celebrate refugees on this day. Find a virtual World Refugee Day event to show your support.

Guided by the people we serve.

USAHello is grateful for the contributions of our board of directors and advisors with refugee backgrounds. Their stories inspire and guide our work:

Portrait of Bhuwan Gautam

Bhuwan Gautam, USAHello board member and co-founder of SHAN Nepal, is a former refugee from Bhutan. He tells us, “in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was one of thousands of ethnic Nepali children affected by forced migration due to the Bhutanese regime’s ethnic cleansing.

In 2007 the US government announced it would resettle Bhutanese refugees. I was very optimistic. After being vetted thoroughly by the U.S. government, I got my new life. Springfield, Massachusetts became my new home. After some adjustments, I have achieved my goal of becoming a proud naturalized American citizen. I am grateful to this country for letting me have a second chance at life.

Unfortunately, negative stereotypes of refugees are on the rise. This makes America a less welcoming place. As one of the greatest countries on the planet, we can do better. I strongly feel that we should welcome more refugees.” Read more of Bhuwan’s inspiring story.

A member of our advisory board, Basma Alawee of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, says, “This World Refugee Day is so special for my family and me because we will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary since we became refugees in 2010.

Headshot of Basma Alawee

We sought refuge 10 years ago and I came with my husband and my daughter Dana. She was one year old at that time. Dana is 11 years old now. She is the youngest refugee activist in Florida.”

Dana, age 11, speaks at the Refugee Day in the Capitol in Florida.
Portrait of Amer Al Fayadh

A member of our advisory board, Amer Al Fayadh of CWS Immigration & Refugee Program, shares, “today, I was reading a book called The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence to my four-year-old son. His curiosity led him to ask many questions about the unfair treatment of African Americans as detailed in the book, and I answered to the best of my knowledge.

It also led us to talk about my family’s journey as refugees. I told him that my family and I were not safe in Iraq, and we had to leave. And how we were blessed to have the opportunity to resettle in the United States. On World Refugee Day, we pray that refugees have peace and safety as we do.”

USAHello board member, Mohamud Noor of IRCO of Portland, shares, “I spent 23 years in Dadaab refugee camps. I remember longing to see how refugees celebrated World Refugee Day in different parts of the world. Their perseverance, courage and strength led them to making their dreams come true. Today refugees show the world that we can take part in the development of our own destiny.”

Mohamud Noor
Mohamud and his friends on June 2010 World Refugee Day donating clothes to refugees.
Headshot of Soumary Vongrassamy

Soumary Vongrassamy, USAHello board member of Multnomah County, Oregon, shares her mother’s story about fleeing Laos, “of the ten kids in my family, I was the only one ho successfully fled Laos. I vividly remember the horror at the Thai refugee camp. Alone and with barely any food, no medicine, no bath water, not a safe place to sleep.

I remember distinctly the route to the US. I imagined the worst would happen to me, with no English skills and no access to the food I know. Oh, it’s been a long and difficult journey. I do miss ‘home’.”  – Somvang Vongrassamy

USAHello board member, Mohy Omer of the National Democratic Institute, says, “I’m originally from Sudan and was resettled in Fargo, North Dakota in 2009, after living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya for almost two years. I knew no one and nothing about Fargo when I arrived. 

Headshot of Mohy Omer

At the time, I could only speak Arabic, 2 other Sudanese languages and some Swahili. Within 5 years, I earned a college degree, became a citizen and started my professional career. I worked for US Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and the US government as a foreign policy analyst. On this special World Refugee Day, I take the opportunity to thank everyone who supported me along the way. I urge the international community to support refugees around the world with basic human needs.” 

Difficult times for refugees.

The United States has a long history of offering refuge to persons fleeing persecution, violence and war.  Unfortunately new immigration policies and the travel ban hurt the people who need our help the most.

On World Refugee Day we call on the US government to continue its welcoming traditions. Use this tool to take civic action to contact your senators and representatives and ask them to support refugees.

Every action we take, small and large, counts.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.