World Refugee Day celebrates resilience

Women and children from Rwanda and Burundi and graduate social work students, with Karen Clark-Hoey (seated middle, far left), celebrating World Refugee Day. Credit: Springfield College School of Social Work.

By Karen Clark-Hoey, Chair, Central and Western MA WILPF Branch

In celebration of World Refugee Day 2016, on June 22, Karen Clark-Hoey, assistant professor, Springfield College School of Social Work, and several graduate social work students from Springfield College’s Worcester MSW Program brought a group of refugee women and children to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, Massachusetts. The women are displaced nationals from Rwanda and Burundi, who had lived in refugee camps in Tanzania and Zambia for as long as 15 years before the United Nations referred them to the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for resettlement. The women were resettled in Springfield, Massachusetts, within the past year and have been participating in a weekly support group for refugee women at Catholic Charities, co-facilitated by Karen Clark, chair of the Central and Western MA Branch (one of the newest branches, established in January 2016).

The overnight outing was an opportunity for the women and their children to see and experience the wonder and natural beauty of Massachusetts and to learn about healthy recreational options outside city life in Springfield. The group hiked the property’s trails, reaching two stunning waterfalls, and stories were shared about the striking similarities between the landscapes of our countries. Most significant is that these women had survived dangerous passages through forests during their on-foot journey to safety during a time of widespread conflict in their countries and were able to experience a joyful and corrective association with the outdoors and share this with their children. The outing was a rich and meaningful cross-cultural exchange that will become an annual tradition in celebration of the strength, hope, and resilience of refugee women and children. Among the many memorable moments was listening to African campfire songs while the children enjoyed their very first s’mores!




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