Refugee Focus WorldFest Jam & Ribbon-Cutting This Friday June 20th

June 18, 2014

by James J. Jefferies

It’s an easy thing to become fixated on the problems we face in twenty-first century America. We have plenty of debates on issues like income inequality, rising student debt, an ongoing national dialogue over mass killings, and a spate of other issues that cause us concern on a daily basis.

This group of refugees has been doing their cultural orientation, and are ready for that first big step into a whole new world.

This group of refugees has been doing their cultural orientation, and are ready for that first big step into a whole new world.

What the overwhelming majority of us have no experience with, however, is the plight of refugees: being hunted and fearing for your life because of the color of your skin, your political or religious beliefs, sexuality, gender identity, or your ethnic origin. In other words, a refugee is someone who must flee their homeland to be safe.

Tucson is home to a large refugee community, that hails from places such as Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many more. Arizona as a whole, according to the US State Department, ranks fifth per capita for refugee placements in the last 15 years. That’s a lot of people in need of different kinds of help – linguistic, logistical, and otherwise – as they attempt to rebuild their lives peacefully once they’ve been removed from immediate danger.

Refugee Focus, true to their name, is an Arizona-based organization with teams in Tucson and Phoenix, whose work is aimed at raising awareness of the needs of refugees. “One of my biggest joys in life has been my time with such a diverse, wonderful, and caring staff,” said Nicolle Trudeau, who has been a part of the organization for five years.

Refugee Focus provides critical services such as immigration/case management, self-sufficiency programs (life skills such as cultural and transit orientation, along with health and wellness/nutrition), and as they come further along in their adjustment, English language and computer skills, financial literacy, and employment orientation.

It’s a long journey for refugees as they begin to grasp life in such a radically different place, but it inspires hope in those working to help them. “One of the most amazing things is seeing this transformation in individuals, as they’ve suffered these traumas, but then that trauma turns to strength,” said Trudeau.

Two little ones feel the love at last year's Fest.

Two little ones feel the love at last year’s Fest.

Refugee Focus is planning a large event, the WorldFest Jam, taking place on Friday, June 20th, which coincides with World Refugee Day. WorldFest Jam will serve as both a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the brand new Refugee Focus offices at 4:00 pm at 120 N. Stone, Suite 220R, which will be presided over by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, and will be preceded by an open house to welcome visitors to the new office beginning at 2:00 pm.

“Bringing (the refugees) into the heart of the community, right in the middle of Downtown, and having the people feeling wanted, we feel it’s going to be an enormous thing for them,” said Trudeau. After the ribbon-cutting, there will be a flash mob, jam session, and dance performance at Jacomé Plaza at 4:30pm, directly in front of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library across the street.

The jam session will feature musicians from Trinidad, Cuba, Senegal, Somalia, and the Philippines, and dancers from Bhutan, Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, in what will be an energetic and colorful display of global talent. A bevy of international flags will also fly at Jacomé Plaza, courtesy of the Tucson Presidio Rotary. There will also be a potluck following the jam at Armory Park at 6:00 pm. The whole afternoon will be a great way to break in the new digs for what remains an important and challenging humanitarian mission.

Refugee Focus has a critical, consistent need for general donations, individual sponsorship of refugees, volunteers, and potential employers who would be willing to take on refugees who are ready and willing to work. There are a lot of ways you can extend your own kindness and participate to make the transition for refugees a little easier as they resettle here. For more information, please check out the Refugee Focus website.