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IINE Celebrates World Refugee Day 2024

  July 2, 2024

Marked each year on June 20, World Refugee Day (WRD) is an international observance honoring the strength, courage, and cultural contributions of those who have been forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict and persecution. It was officially launched as a global celebration by the United Nations in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. 

For IINE, World Refugee Day is an opportunity to recognize the achievements of the refugees we serve and thank those who support them. This year we celebrated all week long with multiple events across our three offices in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts and Manchester, New Hampshire.  

Manchester marks client achievements with a ceremony, food, and prizes

Blog Collage - WRD Manchester

Outside of our offices at Brookside Church, 94 students in our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program were presented with certificates recognizing their total learning hours for the year, and our instructors recognized their students with special awards for perseverance, engagement, mentorship, and other distinctions. Certificates were also presented to participants in the Connections literacy and book distribution program by our partner, NH Humanities; to our community volunteers for their tutoring support; and to the recent graduates of our LNA (Licensed Nursing Assistant) for Success program by a representative from Manchester Community College. Meanwhile, our clients’ children got some quality play time in an inflatable “bouncy castle.” Families got to spin a prize wheel put together by our AmeriCorps volunteers to win transportation passes and gift cards, and a raffle resulted in two children of clients leaving with their own bicycles! 

Lowell community gathers for a bike ride, picnic, and special honoree induction 

34 youth clients and accompanying staff marked the occasion with a WRD bike ride from Bruce Freeman Trail to Heart Pond, where they stopped to enjoy a picnic and take pictures. Bicycles were provided for those who needed them by our community partner, The Bike Connector, a non-profit community bike shop operated by new IINE Board Member Wade Rubenstein, which has provided free bikes, cycling instruction, and recently, employment, to our current and former clients. 

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More than 50 clients and 20 staff gathered for a festive art project: coloring in the flags of their home countries. They also played games, and enjoyed pizza, fruit, and drinks. Staff shared the official theme of this year’s World Refugee Day in multiple languages: “Our Home”—from the places we gather to share meals to our collective home, planet earth: everyone is invited to celebrate what Our Home means to them. Home can be a place of refuge, a feeling, or a state of mind.  

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Community members gathered at Middlesex Community College’s Cowan Center to celebrate our clients and honor those who have made tremendous efforts to welcome them to Greater Lowell. We inducted five new members into the Lowell 100, a group of leaders who have made significant contributions to the city’s immigrant communities: 

  • Majid Abdulhussien and Suad Mansour (top left), former IINE clients who serve as drivers and interpreters to newly arriving refugees. Abudulhussien and Mansour are famous in our Lowell office for answering the call at a moment’s notice to meet refugees at the airport, welcome them to the U.S., and bring them to the furnished apartments secured by our housing coordinators—their first homes in the U.S. “I want people to help me, so now it’s my turn to help the people that need it,” said Mansour. “For me, I enjoy it … You have to see it on their faces when you tell them you are coming to help and that everybody knows they are coming.”
  • Sidney L. Liang (top right), Senior Director of Metta Health Center, Lowell Community Health Center with whom IINE shares an office building and collaborates closely. Liang is a former refugee who fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Praising the many other former refugees who now provide services to new arrivals at both Metta and IINE, Liang said, “They lived through similar experiences, but they have bandaged these wounds. They have wrapped their wounds and now they are ready to give back.”
  • Wade Rubenstein (bottom left), President and Founder of the Bike Connector, new member of IINE’s Board of Directors, and the son of former refugees from Ukraine. Wade was inducted by Ungaye Izaki, a former IINE client whose story of retrieving a bicycle from a canal in order to get to his new job inspired Wade to found the Bike Connector where Izaki now also works. “Ungaye was the first bike I awarded to someone here in Lowell,” Rubinstein said. “Last week we just gave away our 5,000th bike.” 
  • Kelle Doyle, Area Manager of the WeStaff employment agency that has connected thousands of IINE clients with their first employment opportunities in the U.S. Doyle has said of her experience with IINE clients, “they end up being the best employees…The nice thing is, we’re a steppingstone for them to grow their language skills, make some money, establish themselves, get licenses, and just start a life here.” 

Following the moving induction ceremony, eventgoers enjoyed food from around the world as well as a coffee tasting courtesy of Starbucks, who generously sponsored the event and our Manchester celebration. Thank you, Starbucks, for your ongoing support!

City representatives join Boston ESOL graduation to speak with immigrants and IINE staff

On June 20 in Boston, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement Director Monique Nguyen joined a celebration of our ESOL graduates to read a proclamation from Mayor Wu declaring June 20th World Refugee Day in Boston. Boston City Council President Ruthzee Louijeune and City Council members Benjamin Weber and Edward Flynn attended to share their support for immigrant learners. Louijeune addressed students in English and Haitian Creole, underscoring the importance of education and playing an active role in supporting their children’s learning. More than 200 students, family members, and staff attended the celebration. 

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Throughout the week and across our sites, IINE’s community came together with joy and pride, and left feeling truly inspired by the stories and achievements of the people we serve and work alongside, who have persevered through incredible hardships, and are now equally driven to succeed and give back. 


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