This past month was a busy one for World Relief offices around the globe as we all celebrated Immigrant Heritage Month, World Refugee Awareness Month, World Refugee Day, and Juneteenth. Here at World Relief Memphis our theme for the month of June was “Learning Never Stops.” Yes, summer is a time away from school, and for many, a time of rest and vacations, but we feel that learning and growing is something that we can and should be doing all year long.
To live out our theme, we made our monthly staff meeting a time of learning and reflection from our fellow coworkers. Several of our staff members shared with their peers their experience and thoughts on what Immigrant Heritage Month, World Refugee Awareness Month, World Refugee Day, and Juneteenth means to them and how they have impacted their lives.
Oscar Cruz, Employment Specialist, told the office his experience as an immigrant from Honduras and what thoughts Immigrant Heritage Month brings up for him. For Oscar, this month makes him think of his parents and what they have taught him. “My parents always taught me to respect the traditions of each individual.” Living in the U.S., it is not hard to find people who have differing traditions than you. That is one of the beautiful things about America, you can always learn something new and be exposed to traditions from all over the world. “As a Honduran, our most popular traditions are grilling out with friends, soups on Sundays, and baleadas”. Being able to continue his traditions and learn new ones is a way he shows, “the importance of loving our neighbors.”
Clarence Williams, also an Employment Specialist, shared what Juneteenth has meant to him over the years. He explained that his “family celebrated July 4th as Juneteenth for many years.” He remembers his mother telling him that, “July 4th is great for fireworks but we were not free.” From a young age, his parents used Juneteenth as a time for celebration but also a place to impart life lessons to their children. Clarence recalls three main points his parents taught him that he has now passed on to his children:
- Believe what people show you in their actions. You cannot change how people treat you. It is not your job is not to try to convince them of anything.
- Be in control of your actions. God will freely forgive you of your wrong doings, but sometimes consequences will remain.
- Give and don’t lend to others. If you can’t give without looking for a return, then keep it in your pocket.
Clarence recalls that his father was only able to obtain a sixth-grade education. Yet, he taught him that freedom and responsibility always go together.
Lydia Milton, Volunteer Coordinator, also shared her thoughts on Juneteenth. “Juneteenth is a time for us to celebrate our freedom as African Americans. Although there’s still a lot of work we are working towards, we can stop and celebrate how far we’ve come.” There is a lot of history in the Black community that has not been widely known or celebrated amongst all peoples in the U.S. What Lydia shared is a great piece of advice to sit with. While not all is perfect, pieces are continued to be moved in the right direction.
Mahasin Tutu and Basuze Madogo both shared their experience as refugees and immigrants in the states and what World Refugee Day means to them. Mahasin, Holistic Support Specialist, came to the U.S. as a child with her family from Sudan. She describes growing up in the States with a Sudanese family is like getting to live in two worlds. She said, “it can be a beautiful thing, but its hard when the cultures clash.” Even though it can be hard at times to navigate, she loves her family, “and the people who have become family.”
Basuze came to the U.S. later in life and has made the full circle journey from becoming a refugee, resettling in Memphis, to now working as a Resettlement Specialist. He shared the importance of World Refugee Day becoming official on a personal and global scale. It shows that the struggle and the celebration of refugees is being acknowledged and given a voice. Basuze brought to attention the UNHCR’s theme for World Refugee Day this year, “Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the Right to Seek Safety.” He felt that this theme spoke to the discrimination that is seen even amongst the refugee community. Though all those who are refugees are fleeing from similar circumstances, it has become clear that the rhetoric and actions taken by many regarding recent more Eurocentric refugees fleeing have been vastly different compared to refugees from other areas. The UNHCR theme helps share the truth of all who are seeking safety are important, valued, and loved.
After hearing these meaningful messages from our staff, we see the importance and the value of continued learning in our office and in the world as a whole. Taking the time to talk to our neighbors and learn their stories is a small but significant step forward in developing understanding, empathy, and deeper relationships between the community around us.
Author: Kara Spencer
Communication Coordinator at World Relief Memphis, recent graduate of Harding University, and Memphis native.
We hope you were able to continue your learning this month and grow your understanding and appreciation for the Memphis community.
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