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:
The Utica Firefly was started in May 2011 by Geoff Storm and Ryan Miller to explore the art of storytelling, focusing on Central New York and culture and themes close to the heart of our community. A main portion of Firefly is the live event which has been hosted by local coffehouse/venue Tramontane Cafe, although it also includes recording stories of local interest.
The second Firefly event on October 13, 2011 has held in conjunction with the UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival. The Firefly UNSPOKEN event featured stories of refugees, resettlement, human rights, equal rights, terrible stories, happy stories, and stories that made me want to laugh and cry. One different feature of this particular Firefly were that non-locals participated; filmmakers and participants of the festival shared their stories as well.
Deb Fowler, who teaches ESL classes in Massachusetts, shared the poignant story of her Burmese student Bawi. Bawi wanted nothing more than to attend school in Burma, but because of extremely poor living conditions and the high cost of education, could only attend school sporadically. Then Bawi’s village was overcome with Burmese soldiers and Bawi was threatened and tortured. Bawi escaped to Malaysia where he had to live in desperate conditions and work to survive. Bawi sent most of his money back to cousins in Burma to provide for education so they did not have to struggle as he did. Deb wraps up her story with this anecdote:
Last May, in a small village in Chin State, Burma, there was a graduating class of six. Five of those were Bawi’s cousins.
Bawi was able to start a new life for himself in Malaysia, and now is finally getting the education he desired in America.
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.