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Dayton Honors Refugee Populations


The United Nations established World Refugee Day to honor people forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. 

In 2013, there were an estimated 10.4 million refugees around the world.  In 2014, with situations in Syria, Somalia, Iraq and other places, those numbers are likely to grow drastically.

(Update: According to NPR, "At least 51.2 million people are now living under forced displacement, a U.N. agency says, announcing its tally of people who are seeking refuge or asylum, or who are internally displaced. It's the first time the number has topped 50 million since World War II.")

On Sunday, June 22, 2014, the city of Dayton will celebrate  World Refugee Day by honoring its own refugee populations. The city has provided temporary refuge, or become a permanent home, to a number of refugee groups over the years. Sunday they’ll recognize them with music, food, dancing, and other activities at McIntosh Park.

Melissa Bertolo, Program Coordinator with Welcome Dayton says the goal of the event is to bring together refugee populations and other residents. 

“And, so any way that we’re able to bring people together to share common experiences, especially share food, enjoy company with each other, it builds those relationships and builds a stronger community," she says.

Dayton’s overall immigrant population right now is about 4% but growing, and organizers of Sunday’s event say they’ll also hold a clinic to help refugees with their immigration status. 

Credit Sarah Buckingham / Eric Risher
In season 2 of WYSO's Reinvention Stories, we profiled Islom Shakhbandarov, who in 2004 came to the U.S. as refugee from Turkey.

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), provides civil services for low-income individuals. Kathleen Kersh is an attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow, a position sponsored by the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. She works with immigrant integration issues at ABLE and runs the Pro Se (without an attorney) Clinic.

"We help refugees file petitions to bring their family members over, and also to adjust their status to permanent residence, which means getting a green card," she explains. 

Kersh says the U.S. handles  a large percentage of the world's refugee populations and the road to from their home countries to host communities, like Dayton, is a long one. It takes coordination by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the Catholic Council of Bishops, and Catholic Social Services.  The latter is Dayton's local refugee resettlement agency.

After a year as a designated refugee, those placed temporarily in communities like Dayton, can apply for a green card.

Sponsors of Dayton's event, Sunday, include Welcome Dayton, Catholic Social Services, American Friends Service Committee, Metro Dayton Libraries, Dayton Public Schools, Archdiocese of Cincinnati and other community organizations.

It takes place at McIntosh Park  from 11am-3pm. 

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.