Refugee Week 2017: Here’s How We Celebrated!

Refugee Week 2017: Here’s How We Celebrated!

Refugee Week is one of the highlights of the year for SCARF. It’s a chance to showcase and celebrate the courage, resilience and contribution of people from refugee backgrounds. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on the challenges of the refugee experience, and discuss how we can address these as a community.

This year, SCARF partnered with Merrigong Theatre Company to deliver two unique events on Wednesday the 21st of June. These were Multilingual Storytime/Rhymetime for pre-school and primary aged children and their carers, and ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ – a story and culture sharing event at Town Hall featuring stories and traditional cuisine from the SCARF Community.

Wollongong joined hundreds over other towns and cities across Australia in celebrating Refugee Week 2017. According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Refugee Week 2017 was officially Australia’s biggest to date, with over 500 events celebrated across the country in every state and territory. According to RCOA’s National Director, Tim O’Connor, “The number of events hosted across the country has almost doubled in just one year. This just goes to show the incredible support Australians have for people seeking safety here.”

Multi-Lingual Storytime/Rhymetime

Bright and early on Wednesday the 21st, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang ran a multilingual rhyme-time for pre-school aged children with stories, songs and games. Children, babies, parents and adults all attended, and were full of excitement as they participated in the activities.

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Encouraged by Lillian, the audience shared and celebrated their cultural differences. Children who spoke more than one language stood up and taught onlookers how to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’ in their language. Some taught Greek, Arabic and Japanese. The crowd also learnt ‘thank you’ in Karenni.

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Storytellers from refugee backgrounds, Wafaa and Ghada from Syria and Sophie Bu Meh from Myanmar, all told engaging stories in their first languages as well as English.

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Multi-Lingual Storytime/Rhymetime was presented by SCARF, and supported by The Red Room and City of Sydney Libraries.

‘A Mile in My Shoes’ Event and Sound Exhibition

SCARF partnered with Merrigong Theatre Company to deliver ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ Event and Exhibition, held at Wollongong Town Hall on Wednesday the 21st of June.

The evening event featured stories from four SCARF community members and traditional snacks from Liberia, Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar. The ‘A Mile in my Shoes’ exhibition, created by Lilian Pang, featured a display of shoes from SCARF community members, accompanied by audio recordings of stories about journey and transition.

After viewings of the ‘A Mile in my Shoes’ sound exhibition wrapped up, it was time to begin the evening event. A crowd of 150 people began filing in, taking their seats at tables set up in the Hall.

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First up were Jodi Edwards and Talia King, who did a ‘Welcome to Country’ and a vocal performance.

Next up was Wafaa Izz Eddin, who shared her ‘shoe story’, the theme for the evening. Wafaa told the audience about her journey to buy her daughter new shoes, as well as her experience of fleeing Syria to seek refuge. After her story, audiences were invited to ask questions.

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-3After Wafaa’s story, guests were treated to traditional snacks from Syria. Eugenia Pyne was up next, sharing her shoe story from Liberia. Eugenia was joined on stage by her young daughter, Joy.

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Following questions and traditional African snacks was a story from Arif Khan. Arif shared a story about traditional afghan shoes, and his experiences both in Afghanistan and growing up in Australia. Guests were again invited to ask questions, and many took the opportunity.

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-23The last person to share their story was Baw Meh Bird, who shared a powerful story from Myanmar (translated by Francis Htjaru).

20170621_SCARF_RefugeeWeek-20After yet another round of questions followed by delicious traditional cuisine, this time from Myanmar, the evening had come to an end. Guests left with full bellies and no doubt a greater understanding of refugee experiences from around the world.

A huge thanks is owed to SCARF community members who shared stories, the wonderful Lilian Pang who MC’d the event, and the SCARF and Merrigong volunteers who made the event possible. Thanks also to the event sponsors, FACS (Family and Community Services), MCCI (Multicultural Council of the Illawarra) and Navitas.

‘A Mile in my Shoes’ was presented by SCARF and Merrigong Theatre Company.