June 20th, was World Refugee Day. Many cities around the country held special events in order to bring increased awareness to the plight of refugees around the world. A World Refugee Day celebration was held in Austin, Texas that was organized by the local resettlement agencies and other organizations in Austin that work with refugees.
The List Project was fortunate enough to secure a table at this event, so I came with a stack of List Project fliers, the recently published IRC report, a handful of business cards, and my laptop. I was joined by Austin resident Esther Diaz, who is a trainer for translators and interpreters that provide services to resettlement agencies. She is also a new volunteer for the List Project.
While I’ve participated in several meetings with both Iraqis and Americans who were already aware of the List Project, this was the first forum where I’ve really gotten the chance to explain the organization to Americans who had never heard of The List Project before.
I also met some Iraqis who have recently resettled in the Austin area. In contrast with the Americans I met, many of the Iraqis had actually heard of the List Project, and were very excited to meet us. Like most resettled Iraqis around the country, they are struggling to make ends meet in the current economy.
With all of the challenges our Iraqi friends are facing, it’s easy to get discouraged. The needs of the community are so great, and we’re trying to meet them with limited resources. After this event, however, I feel a renewed hope that many Americans can and will help out. They just need to know what’s happening. They need to be reminded that life in Iraq is not “back to normal”. They need someone to give a voice to the challenges that Iraqis are facing here in the United States.
Will you be that voice?
*Jeff Brown is head of the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter and the Outreach and Web Development Intern for the List Project