Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions, Catholic Charities of Louisville will be hosting its annual World Refugee Day celebration virtually this year.
The event will also be a week-long celebration, from June 15-20 this year.
“Typically we host a carnival-style celebration with music, performances and international food,” said Emily Willis, events and in-kind coordinator for Catholic Charities. Hosting a week-long celebration will hopefully “help us inform the community on a larger scale.”
“World Refugee Week: A virtual celebration of diversity and inclusion,” will feature video interviews with “10 Top Louisville Leaders,” including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Mayor Greg Fischer, University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, and Jeffrey Walz, head coach of U of L’s women’s basketball team.
“We’re excited to showcase these 10 individuals who embody the mentality of welcoming neighbors,” said Willis.
Starting June 15, Catholic Charities will feature two videos per day on its Facebook page, the first at 10 a.m. and the second at 8 p.m. Archbishop Kurtz’s video kicked off the virtual celebration Monday morning, said Willis.
During the week, there will also be several Facebook posts each day where Catholic Charities’ clients will share cultural performances, recipes and art.
Catholic Charities has also partnered with Kentucky Refugee Ministries for their virtual event June 20, when World Refugee Day is observed. Kentucky Refugee Ministries will do a live stream featuring speakers and performances between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. that day. One of the speakers will be a member of Catholic Charities’ staff, said Willis.
Colin Triplett, director of Catholic Charities’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services, said he’s pleased the agency was able to find a way to celebrate World Refugee Day.
The event is in part a “celebration of the vibrant refugee and immigrant communities we welcome over the years and serve,” he said.
But it also serves as a reminder that there are people displaced all over the world, suffering persecution because of their beliefs and now they’re also suffering from a global pandemic, said Triplett.
The pandemic has had an impact on refugees in more than one way, he noted. Since the start of the charity’s current fiscal year Oct. 1, it has resettled 52 refugees — mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma. That’s down from 295 the previous fiscal year.
“It’s a shame,” said Triplett. “With COVID-19, the clients are very vulnerable. When things impact everyone, it’s felt more acutely by refugees. When the economy, health and security in the world is impacted, they suffer acutely.”
Some refugees who are ready to enter the United States, are not able to because the pandemic has put a pause on the process by which they can enter, he said. Catholic Charities is prepared to receive them, thanks to continued support from parishes and the community, said Triplett.
In the meantime, he noted, the agency is looking for volunteers to help welcome clients as soon as things return to normal.
Of particular need are teams of individuals from parishes who can sponsor a refugee family. This includes preparing an apartment, buying food, greeting the family at the airport and accompanying them as they settle down in their new home, said Triplett.
The agency also needs volunteers to sort donations, tutor individuals in English and help with administration work around the office.
The Office of Migration and Refugee Services’ summer camp for refugee children will take place virtually this year. Volunteers are needed for that program as well, said Triplett.
For more information on World Refugee Day, visit https://cclou.org/world-refugee-day-2020/.