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Imagine leaving your country, moving thousands of miles away to a foreign place where you don’t know the language, struggle to find a job, and are unsure of how to find and secure housing? These are just a few of the challenges refugees face when coming to the United States.

Thanks to several local organizations working to help the world’s most vulnerable people rebuild their lives, many of Houston’s refugees have successfully broken through social, cultural, and economic barriers and flourished against all odds. To celebrate and recognize refugees’ unrelenting perseverance and positivity, the Houston Refugee Consortium, in collaboration with the City of Houston, will host this year’s World Refugee Day Houston, on June 18, 2016 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the San Jacinto Auditorium at Houston Community College’s Central Campus, located at 1300 Holman St., Houston, TX 77004.

World Refugee Day Houston 2016 will honor former refugees who have made a positive impact on the city of Houston. This year’s event, entitled Houston’s Refugee Voices, will feature stories from refugees who have just arrived and former refugees who have been in Houston for decades. This free event will illuminate the refugee experience in Houston throughout time, and highlight the positive impact these individuals have made on the city.

On hand to honor refugees will be elected officials Mayor Sylvester Turner, State Representative Gene Wu and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Several former refugees who have contributed to the growth and development of the city will be honored, including: Mustafa Faiz, Omer Okanovic, Lucy Mulenzi, Asinja Badeel, Layth Lafta, Sendet Seremba, Thomas Tedla and Ahmed Badr. Their remarkable stories serve as an inspiration to all. Additional honorees may be announced at a later date.

In advance of the celebration, there will be a World Refugee Day Photography Exhibit, opening on Tuesday June 14, 2016, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Learning Hub, Room 100, Houston Community College, Central Campus also located at 1300 Holman St., Houston, TX 77004. The portraits, taken by a former refugee, will showcase honorees and their stories.

Every year, there are approximately 3,000 refugees from all over the world who are resettled in Houston by the U.S. State Department. These refugees are often forced to leave their homes because of violence or fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Houston resettlement agencies ensure refugees are introduced to the society; children are enrolled in school and employable adults find employment and attend English classes.

World Refugee Day Houston is a collective effort, made possible by the Houston Refugee Consortium* and numerous community partners. For more information visit the website at or e-mail comments to

*The Houston Refugee Consortium is a unique model partnering two educational institutes and five of Houston’s major resettlement agencies: Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Houston Community College, Bilingual Education Institute, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, YMCA International Services, Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, and Refugee Services of Texas. This long standing partnership has successfully assisted thousands of refugees with the acculturation process and with becoming self-sufficient.


For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on June 20 in several countries. The United Nations General Assembly, on December 4, 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on June 20. The General Assembly therefore decided that, from 2001, June 20 would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. The theme of this year’s observance is “Houston’s Refugee Voices.” The campaign aims at highlighting individual refugees in Houston who have become successful and are giving back to others. At the heart of the campaign is the belief that all forcibly displaced people must be allowed to live in safety and dignity because they contribute great things to society, both economically and socially.

Houston World Refugee Day 2016  was originally published on

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