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Houston Celebrates World Refugee Day June 21 2014

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Raindrop Turkish House, Houston June 21 2014
Raindrop Turkish House, Houston June 21 2014
Marc Pembroke
elected officials join honorary chairs on World Refugee Day
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Saturday, June 21 at the Raindrop Turkish House, Houston celebrated its third annual World Refugee Day, honoring more than 70,000 refugees who have made Houston their home in the past, and particularly those who have been resettled in Houston at a rate of about 2000 per year.

The celebration provided 4 interactive instructional sites featuring the Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, and Birma, food vendors of many nationalities,information tables of federal, state, and local agencies. In addition, All of the major non-profit organizations with offering services for refugees had information tables, including Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Catholic Charities, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Refugee Services of Texas and YMCA International Services.

UNHCR official Alia Al-Khatar-Williams explained the purpose of World Refugee Day and briefly explained the current status of the worldwide problem. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Representative Gene Wu, Council Member Mike Laster, Council Member Richard Nguyen, and Pakistani Consul General Afzaal Mahmood honored the five honorary chairs and presented proclamations in a ceremony on stage at 4:00pm.

Each of the honorary chairs escaped civil wars and chaotic situations, and with the assistance of relief organizations eventually came to Houston. Once here, each has made significant achievements and currently make positive contributions to the Houston area.

Ms. Mediatrice Kabasinga and her husband fled their home in Rwanda in the midst of the Hutus and Tutsis. Once in Houston, she started as a cafeteria attendant at Marriott Hotels, and worked her way up to assistant director of finance and accounting. She now has an M.B.A. from Texas Women’s University and is the mother of two children.

Mr. Vican Sun
Vican was born in Saigon, Vietnam to parents of Chinese descent. At age 15 he and his family fled in 1975 when the Communists took over the city. The remaining Sun family left later as ‘boat people’ and made their way to Houston. In 1982 Vican joined them and the family opened a grocery store in 1984 which has become one of the largest Asian food stores in Houston.

Ms. Mirzeta Colic , an electrical engineer, left Bosnia in 1992 in the midst of its civil war She arrived in Houston in 1998, with just two suitcases. In 2001, after years of saving and waiting, she was able to bringing her whole family to Houston and became an American citizen in 2004. Today she is an accomplished Financial Professional.

Ms. Khansaa Almansor grew up in Basra, Iraq with seven siblings. She moved to Houston in 2009 through a Special Immigrant Visa. Shortly after her arrival, she enrolled at Houston Community College (HCC) for an electronics certification course. She now is on the faculty at HCC.

Mr. Binyam Gebrehewet

Came from Eritrea in 2006 where his family owned a trucking business. Binyam left his home as a refugee in 2006. When he settled in Houston, he opened his own company, B.A.G. Transport. Today he has 21 employees, six company-owned trucks, and several contractors, most of whom are refugees themselves.

Following the presentations, several talented refugees performed. A group of children from the Kachin tribe of war-torn northern Myamar danced. Emanuel Nienzema a singer-composer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo ,talked about his current life and goals after he performed original compositions in French and English. An Iraqi acoustic guitarist, whose father was murdered by terrorists, performed 3 solo compositions. His father's killers once threatened to cut off his fingers if he returned to his homeland.

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