Many of the young refugees say they owe their survival here to soccer, a respite from trying, chaotic and often lonely lives (Santos, 2006).
Today, soccer is still a major part of refugee lives. I recently ran into a friend who came from Burma three years ago with her two sons. She said both her boys play soccer – she has to drive all over with them to games.
The Redeemer Church recognized this fact and in 2010 started the Redeemer Cup. The Redeemer Cup is a full on soccer tournament World Cup-style. It is designed so that each team represents a different cultural portion of our community. It is becoming an annual event in the Utica, NY area and is a great way to support the community and encourage cultural unity.
Redeemer Church Rick Andrew organizes the event. Andrew said those interested must be between the ages of 15 and 50 to play. One leader of a team must organize a group to compete. There’s usually about 16 teams representing different refugee groups in the area.
The 2012 tournament will take place June 2nd and 3rd at Proctor Park in Utica. Starting Over will be there to document the event – be sure to look for the Redeemer Cup display at our Gallery event in December!
The motto of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) is “Many Cultures, One Community” – something the organization really celebrates. The MVRCR takes in about 500 refugees a year in cooperation with state and federal government agencies.
The Mission of the MVRCR…
We promote the well-being of culturally diverse individuals and families within our community by welcoming our new neighbors, refugees and immigrants, and by providing individual and community-centered activities designed to create opportunity and facilitate understanding.
Here are just some of the services that the MVCC offers:
Refugee Health and Family
Services and Referrals
Interpretation and Translation
Immigration and Naturalization
Cultural Competence Training
English as a Second Language
Events include World Refugee Day, International Mile at the Boilermaker, Passport to the World and more.
MVCRC’s 2011 Open House on World Refugee Day was featured by The Couch Utica, a local group documenting community appreciation through film. The Couch was able to interview many refugees who have come through the center on why they love Utica along with local community members who have come from different backgrounds around the world.
Here’s an interview with then-Executive Director Peter Vogelaar about the MVRCR and how the center affects the Utica community and vice versa:
Today was the 30th Family Reunion and Thanksgiving Service for Rev. PU Nay Win at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Hopper Street in Utica. The Church under Rev. Mark Caruana has strong ties with the refugees of the Karen community from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Over 1,000 Karen community members belong to the Church.
We arrived at 10am, unsure what exactly would be happening. The Church was filled with families and members of the Karen community from small children to the elderly. The service was in Karen, so nothing was understood. However there were some really great moments of song – young kids and a mixed choir with a backing band. The participation level in the Church seems high.
After the service ended, many community members greeted us hello. Although we didn’t know it was him at the time, Rev. Win thanked us for coming and invited us to the party. We made our way to the event room at the back of the Church where food was laid out. We learned later than the family and friends shared in the task of providing food for the party.We met members of the refugee community, including from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and the Redeemer Church, who came to celebrate.
We met a local woman, Mint, who we shared a table with. She explained the party was a gathering of family and friends from Rev. Win’s family who gathered together in celebration and thanks. Mint shared with us stories of her family, background and life in America.
It was a nice event and good to hear stories from the Karen Community about Starting Over in Utica!
Refugee packages – multiple resources to be used to assist with refugees from a specific geographic area. These packages include videos, background historical and cultural information, program overviews of overseas Cultural Orientation (CO) programs, student lesson plans and welcome guidebooks.
Videos – Numerous videos featuring interviews with resettled refugees from Bhutan, Burma, and the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as with refugee seniors. Videos include interviews and experiences with resettlement.
Map and brief descriptions of overseas CO programs: location, populations, duration and emphasis.
The video section is an especially great resource. The videos show interviews with refugees about their life in the United States. You can see real stories of hope, fear, happiness, loneliness and thanksgiving. Most of the refugees featured are happy with their life in America.
The video Bhutanese Refugees in the United States features one especially enlightening interview with Dilli Ram Khapangay who had been in the US 1 year and nine months. He is grateful for his liberties in America – the ability to eat what he wishes, practice what religion he chooses and so on.
I had 33 difficulties in Nepal – water, food and so on. Here I’ve found only three difficulties. The rest of them are gone.
Dilli’s story and the many more shared through the COR Center website are great reminders of the hardships refugees face and the what happens after moving to America and Starting Over.
Sunday, April 15th was the last of a three day celebration of the Cambodian New Year Celebration. Some of the Starting Over team members went as a way to get the project jump started.
We arrived at the Khmer Buddhist Temple of Utica at 10am to an already packed house, with carloads of families arriving by the minute. Most carried in trays and trays of food. We snapped some photos of the amazing architecture before making our way inside. It was clear that we were outsiders, as if our hesitation didn’t give us away. However, we were greeted with smiles, nods and wishes of Happy New Year.
The celebration started with traditions of donations to the Temple and the monks by the community. Each donation meant cleansing and good karma!
There was a period of prayer time. Then came the feast! The monks ate until they were full, then the remainder was shared among community members who sat in small groups on the floor. We were welcomed into a circle and shared some delicious food. Fresh fruit, traditional noodle dishes, meats and more. We were able to speak with people about their experiences in Utica, many of whom were happy to share their stories.
Paul Yin, for one, really enjoys living in Utica. He’s happy, because Utica is a place he could afford to get his own house to fix up. He looks forward to spending the rest of his life here. He says about the Cambodian community in Utica…
The community is small, but we try to bring more business to the city. I hope the city will grow up… In the future, I hope more people will move into the city
Starting Over’s visit to the Cambodian New Year at the Khmer Buddhist Temple was very inspiring. The community was extremely welcoming and genuinely happy to celebrate with us, their new guests. I look forward to working with the community members more as this project evolves!
Check out a sneak peek of the Cambodian New Year in this video preview from The Utica Firefly