Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Sunday, June 24, 2012
The songs of traditional Somali music echoed through the hallways, and for Abdullahi Mohamed, this was a link to his native country that he was forced to leave behind.
Mohamed, 27, celebrated his first World Refugee Day on Saturday at the Children’s School of Rochester with music, dance and food from the Somali, Bhutanese and Burmese cultures, among others.
More than 200 people attended the second annual event, said Jay Piper, principal of the school.After leaving Somalia, Mohamed was a refugee in Yemen and the United Arab Emirates before he was relocated to Rochester more than two years ago, thanks to the Catholic Family Center, a resettlement agency in Rochester.
There are 15 million refugees worldwide and more than 20,000 have relocated to Rochester, said Jim Morris, associate director of the Catholic Family Center. His organization acts as a bridge for refugees to help them become acquainted with the community.
“It takes a community effort to welcome refugees, and thankfully in Rochester we have a very welcome community,” Morris said.
The Children’s School has about 150, or half, of its students whose families are from refugee camps, Piper said. He believes students at his school have a better cultural competency because of the different cultures represented.
“Many of them share words in other languages because of their classmates,” Piper said. “They have a higher appreciation for other cultures and they value the diversity that other students bring to the school.”
For Mohamed, English was one of the biggest hurdles he faced when he moved here, but thanks to friend and fellow refugee Mohamed Gazali, he began taking English-speaking courses at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester.
Gazali is also originally from Somalia and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before relocating to Rochester in 1997.
He has been helping Mohamed every step of the way.“What really joined us today they say is tribal interest, but I feel like it’s greater that that,” Gazali said. “We are still feeling the pain back home every day because we cannot bring 1,000 people here to stay with us, but we pray that the ones that are still living in the refugee camps will get out of there.”