On Saturday, people will have the chance to learn about the refugee community in Johnson and Linn Counties, as the Refugee & Immigrant Association celebrates World Refugee Day at Liberty High School in North Liberty.
World Refugee Day is an annual observance established by the United Nations in 2000, to raise awareness of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world. Since 2014, the Iowa City-based Refugee & Immigrant Association has held celebrations to mark the day.
Saturday’s event will feature a traditional African dinner, and celebrate the accomplishments of refugee and immigrant students who graduated from high school this year, like Josephine Pongo, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“I plan on going to Kirkwood Community College,” Pongo, who graduated from Iowa City High School last month, told Little Village. When asked what she planned on majoring in, she answered, “Nursing. I want to help people.”
Since its founding in 2013, the Refugee & Immigrant Association has worked “to provide support and relief to new members of our community,’ its site explains. “One of our goals is to help with integration into the existing communities by providing connections between long-time residents and new arrivals.”
Most of the newcomers the nonprofit works with in Johnson and Linn Counties arrived in the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Togo, Liberia, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
The four-hour event at Liberty High School starts at 4 p.m., and is free and open to the public. The dinner is also free, but the association will be accepting free-will donations to help support its work.