A look back at 2015 — A feast for immigrants and refugees
On December 2, the Center for Interfaith Cooperation hosted a group of students from IUPUI’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs for a very big Multicultural Feast to welcome refugees and other newcomers to Indiana. The event was covered by WISH-TV and has inspired other groups to ask for CIC’s help in organizing their own events to “Welcome the Stranger.”
Reports on the Multicultural Feast
Images from the Feast
Photos from Alexus Brown
Samantha Wiemer: “Multicultural Friendship Feast — Introducing Indianapolis to Each Other”
The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees uses the 1951 Refugee Convention to define a refugee as “someone who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” (2015, para. 3). The crises in Syria, surrounding countries, and other war-torn areas in the world have all created an influx of refugees to the US and other western countries. According to the UNHCR (2015), “one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum” (para. 4); this is a historical high. So many are seeking asylum and some are granted that asylum in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Once they are resettled in Indianapolis, they must start over in a country where they are not accustomed the language, culture, or society. This is why IUPUI’s School of Environmental and Public Affairs students decided to put on the Multicultural Friendship Feast: Introducing Indianapolis to Each Other.
The students envisioned the Feast as a place to create a dialogue with the refugees and immigrants who have resettled in Indianapolis and surrounding areas. The Feast was thought of as a place where all people, refugees, immigrants, and Hoosiers, could come together, meet each other, and discuss their journeys over a feast of food from different cultures. There was to be a panel of refugees who were happy to tell their stories to the crowd, a children’s section so families would feel they could attend, and, best of all, ethnic food from restaurants around Indy. To successfully prepare for the Feast, the students broke up into committees that were designed to complete specific tasks. The committees included Communication, Food, Fundraising, and Programming.
The Communications Committee advertised the Feast through Nuvo, Facebook, Jag News, and Provocate to get the word out to as many people as possible; we were hopeful for a large turnout. They also contacted people from the Burmese Center for Community Education, Burmese American Community Institute, Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps, CIC, Exodus Refugee, Community Health Network, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Catholic Charities Immigrant Services, Nueva Creacion, Peace Learning Center, Jewish Family Services, Christian Theological Seminary, and the Felege Hiywot Center. They were very successful in getting the word out for the Feast.
The Food Committees was in charge of gathering the different kinds of food for the different refugees that were expected to attend. The type of food gathered came from the following places: the Kimu Restaurant provided stir fry egg noodles with veggies and stir fry egg noodles with chicken- one tray of each was to serve 40 people, Major Restaurant provided lentil sambussa and carrot/cabbage sambussa- 18 of each. The Canal Bistro Mediterranean Grille provided hummus (1 tray) and baba ganoush (2 trays) along with pita bread for each tray, and La Guanajuato & La Guanaquita provided papusas, salsa, rice, and beans. Finally, what is a feast without dessert? Dessert was donated and included cookies of all kinds and mini cupcakes. Other donations for the Feast included 125 3-compartment dinner plates, 100 dessert plates, 100 cups, 200 dinner forks, and 100 dinner napkins.
The Fundraising Committee did just that: raised funds to help pay for the event’s needs. They set up a Go Fund Me page, in which members from the class and those who supported the event could donate however much they could afford to help launch this event. The Go Fund Me page was an excellent idea and very successful; we received a total of $511.00 from 17 different people in less than one month, pretty incredible!
Finally, the Programming Committee was in charge of coming up with how the event would be run. They decided on having a children’s section where the kids could color and paint figures to keep the kids occupied while their parents enjoyed the program. Also, they planned on having a panel discussion for refugees and immigrants to tell their stories and answer questions.
The event ended up being very successful. Walking in, there was a plethora of food and many attendees. There were over 75 people in attendance and children utilizing the designated children’s area. Indianapolis’ News Channel’s 8 and 10 were in attendance and filmed a portion of the event, before festivities really started. There were many tables, it was a first come first serve basis, and everyone could sit anywhere they chose. This was very exciting to watch as many people who did not know each other came together, were sitting with each other, conversing about who they were, how they heard about the event and why they came. Personally, I sat with a Congolese man named Ali who told me he had been here for about 3 years and came to the states to escape persecution for opposing his government’s actions/views; he was a human rights activist back in the Congo.
Everyone had arrived between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m., once almost everyone was settled we began to eat. Table by table, everyone went up to the buffet that consisted of Mexican, Burmese, Ethiopian, Mediterranean/Greek cuisines to fill their plates. After everyone had a plate in front of them, the program began. A student involved in planning the Feast, Sara Hindi kicked it off by reading a story about a Syrian refugee fleeing Syria and trying to enter Germany; everyone listened intently and moved everyone in the room. Then, a video was shown that outlined the refugee screening process for refugees to enter the US, which was eye-opening to those who were not aware of the screening process and the hoops that they have to jump through to get here. Like involuntarily leaving everything you’ve ever known to go somewhere you know nothing about isn’t hard enough, the mountains that must be moved to get out of a war-torn country are taxing on the soul as well.
Once the video concluded, there was an intense panel discussion with refugees who are currently living in Indianapolis, which was moderated by Kevin Zhang Sonera, another student involved in planning the event. The panel included five refugees and immigrants who all told their stories of their family’s venture to the states. They answered important questions posed by Zhang Sonera and any questions from the audience. Some important information that was gathered from these refugees included what they feel they bring to Indianapolis, answers included friendships, foods, culture, diversity, and contributions to the workforce. When asked what their experience in Indianapolis has been like, the overall response was a positive one; this should make Hoosiers feel proud that their Hoosier-hospitality is still intact. Also, they felt they it was important for more Hoosiers to take the time to understand the differences and challenges that they (refugees and immigrants) face, for Hoosiers to be more educated on and understand the policies that their government proposes and how it will affect them, and maybe have more organizations like Exodus as they really helped the Iraqi immigrant, and finally it is important for them to be able to obtain important, but simple documents, like a driver’s license. The panel discussion concluded with each panelist ending the following question with one word, “I am an immigrant/refugee, but I am not…” The answers “ignorant”, “here to do nothing”, “criminal”, “terrorist”, and “alone” were all truly heard by the audience and applauded.
To conclude, the event went off without a hitch and was very successful. As the post on Facebook shows, many people wanted to attend, but had prior engagements and are asking for another opportunity to come and show their support for the refugees coming to our state capital. With crises in the East and the South pushing millions out of their homes, it is up to the citizens of the US to be accepting to these people, they are just like us, but they have lost everything. To be here for these immigrants and make them feel comfortable, when everything to them is uncomfortable, is the best thing we can do to try and create an all-accepting environment.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2015). Flowing across borders. Who We Help, Refugees. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2015). Worldwide displacement hits all-time high as war and persecution increase. News Stories. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html
IUPUI students hope to shed positive light on refugees
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Since the Paris terror attacks, feelings have been mixed over whether to welcome refugees from certain regions into the United States.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed tough new regulations meant to limit the number of Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
That legislation is now pending in the Senate.
This issue hits home for the refugees living in Indiana.
On Wednesday night, a group of local college students held a dinner in support of the families now living in the Hoosier state.
The dinner was called a “Multicultural Friendship Feast” and was organized by IUPUI students.
The group raised nearly $600 on GoFundMe for the event, to host the refugees from across the world.
Shimaa Aldulaimi arrived in the U.S. from Iraq one year ago.
“After three years of trying to apply, we came to the United States and we came to Indiana through Exodus,” the mother of three said.
Exodus Refugee Immigration resettled Aldulaimi, her husband and three children after their area of Baghdad became unsafe.
She said despite negative national conversation, she has felt welcome in the U.S.
“The way people treat me here in Indiana is very well, I am treated very well here,” Aldulaimi said.
She is grateful to be in this country for her children’s education.
“I’m very happy to be here especially in Indiana because the schools here are great,” she said.
And she’s grateful for friends like these IUPUI students, including Angie Lyon.
“Our goal in this is just to say there are people in Indianapolis that support you,” Lyon said.
She helped organize the community dinner for her IUPUI civic participation class.
She said she gets emotional when thinking about the journey these families take to come here.
“They’re just literally picking up their children and walking out their door never to go home again,” Lyon said.
She hopes more people speak up in support of the refugee families.
“These people need our help and we’re not doing them any favors by keeping them secluded, but rather let’s tell them there are people here that support you,” Lyon said.
“I feel very appreciated that events like this happen and it makes me feel even more welcome,” Aldulaimi said.
The IUPUI class is hosting another event Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation in Indianapolis.
It’s going to focus on what Indianapolis will look like in 200 years in regards to culture, technology and sustainability.