World Refugee Day celebrates residents with the courage to start all over

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Tradtional Eritrean coffee was served at one of the displays celebrating World Refugee Day at the YWCA Prince Albert Wesley location on Monday.

Monday was World Refugee Day and the YWCA Prince Albert celebrated with an event focused on local residents to had to start all over.

Carolyn Hobden, the Manager of Settlement Services for YWCA Prince Albert, said refugees sometimes have to leave everything behind when they feel war, famine or disease. She said it takes courage to move to a place like Canada and begin to rebuild. On Monday, that’s what they wanted to recognize.

“This is a celebration held all over the world and it celebrates people’s courage and ability to start again,” she explained. “(It takes) courage to leave your country and everything you know and be able to start life over in a new place.”

Among the cultures represented were Syria, Eritrea, Burma, Vietnam, Sudan, South Sudan, the Congo and Rwanda among others.

Many of the residents who came to Canada travelled from areas with strife and war.

“I think the beautiful part is that some of these people maybe have been warring in their own countries but they come here and they have a sense of belonging,” Hobden said. “They have a common thread with other people because everybody has had to leave their home due to war (or) persecution and come to a new country and start over, and then you see them supporting one another.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Carolyn Hobden (left) had a South Sudanese cultural tradition explained to her during the World Refugee Day at the YWCA Prince Albert Wesley location on Monday.

Monday’s event included musical performances and traditional coffees, teas and breads from the countries represented.

“We share dancing and music, and it doesn’t matter if you are Muslim or you are Christian or what your beliefs are,” Hobden said. “We all have that common thread of starting again and becoming citizens of Canada.”

Hobden was pleased with the turnout for the event which also included a meal in the basement. She said it was nice to have people gathering together after two years of restrictions that prevented those events from happening.

“This is what our clients really enjoy because they don’t have family here,” she explained. “They come usually as their own individual family, at least here we have an extended settlement family where people can be with each other.”

The event was held at the Settlement Services location in the Wesley United Church location downtown, which serves as their headquarters. They’ve been in the building for about four years, and host several community events and programs, including language classes.

“That’s where everybody kind of meets each other,” Hobden said. “They come here for settlement services and then we sign everybody up because most people come with very limited language skills.

Overall the community welcomes the newcomers, according to Hobden.

“It’s really good to see that people of Prince Albert welcome our clients and just wave or say hi and welcome,” she explained. “Sometimes they are not wanted in the countries they have been, so it’s nice when people here can appreciate that they have come here and make them feel like they can be part of our community.”