Exhibit tells the story of refugees becoming neighbors 

The “Blurred Lives: Refugees to Neighbors” exhibit is open at Main Library from now through August 1. The exhibit, which is on display on the second floor gallery, tells the stories of 12 refugees who came to Michiana as refugees and asylees fleeing persecution in Viet Nam, Bosnia, Iraq, Venezuela and Afghanistan, among other countries. 

“Refugees and other immigrants are important to the prosperity of our region,” said Ludy McCollister, Community Engagement Coordinator at the URC. “Forty percent of our population growth in recent years is because of immigration.”

“When we began this collaboration with the Library several months ago, it was simply with the idea of sharing the stories of a few refugees and asylees in the community. It has been a powerful experience for everyone involved. I believe, and hope, that more people will become active in welcoming and resettling newcomers in Michiana once they have a chance to ‘meet’ a few through this exhibit. Our new neighbors’ gifts are many and varied.”

The United Religious Community and Neighbor to Neighbor gathered the stories of some of our newest neighbors. Their stories are as diverse as their countries of origin. Among the stories that are highlighted are a cookbook author from Bosnia; an associate professor of painting and drawing at the University of Notre Dame who fled Viet Nam; as well as recent arrivals who are working on the front lines of businesses in the area.  It is wonderful that they have chosen to make Michiana their home. As they thrive, we all thrive. The photos, taken by local photographer and documentarian, Myriam Nicodemus, really capture the essence of each individual’s story.

In the coming weeks, the American Immigration Council and Welcoming America will release a report on the economic contributions of immigrants to Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties. Immigrants are an important part of our future as they were in years past.

Honor refugees at World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is Tuesday, June 20. Established by the United Nations, the day honors refugees from around the world. The Library will be hosting the following programs:

Screenings of The Flagmakers, in partnership with Neighbor to Neighbor and the United Religious Community
9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, June 20
Leighton Auditorium, Community Learning Center

From National Geographic Documentary Films, The Flagmakers poses one of today’s most pressing questions: who is the American flag for? Employee-owned Eder Flag in Oak Creek, Wisconsin sews and ships five million American flags a year. The flagmakers—locals, immigrants and refugees—stitch stars and stripes as they wrestle with identity and belonging. The film is an intimate glimpse into the people whose hands make America’s most recognizable icon. Screenings begin at 9 a.m. and at the top of every hour until 3 p.m. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

We Are All Refugees, in partnership with Neighbor to Neighbor and the United Religious Community 
6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 20
Leighton Auditorium, Community Learning Center 

Pastor Ndunge A. Sefu from Kikwit, a town in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, will speak about his experiences with refugees and the positive role that refugees play in their host societies. Ndunge is pursuing a master’s degree in theology and peace studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economic science, and held management roles in Cape Town, South Africa including customer service manager at Shell Global Customer Service and Amazon.

Screening of The Swimmers, in partnership with Neighbor to Neighbor and the United Religious Community 
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 28
Leighton Auditorium, Community Learning Center 

Directed by Sally El Hosaini, “The Swimmers” follows the journey of two young sisters who embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use. The film will be followed by discussion.

Neighbor to Neighbor Bingo Fundraiser
June 19-26 | Play online

Support displaced people in our area by playing Neighbor to Neighbor BINGO online.

South Bend Global Soccer Tournament
9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, July 15
Boehm Park

The United Religious Community, South Bend Venues Parks and Arts and the South Bend Lions Soccer Club are hosting a soccer tournament with the goal of encouraging participation from a variety of countries represented in our community. Entry fee is $50 per team; each player must be 18+. Register for the tournament.

Pastor Ndunge A. Sefu

World Refugee Day: Books on the Global Refugee Experiece

Learn about the global refugee experience and the stories of those who have journeyed in search of a better future.

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