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Live Storytelling Performance Honors the Contributions of Refugees and Immigrants Throughout New England

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August 21, 2017 – (Manchester, New Hampshire) On Thursday, September 21, more than 800 people will fill the Palace Theatre in Manchester, New Hampshire for a special public performance of Suitcase Stories LIVE!

The event, beginning at 7:00PM, is co-sponsored by the International Institute of New England (IINE), Inti Academy, and MassMouth and features six foreign- and U.S.-born tellers seeking to connect cultures through their poignant, personal live stories. Virginia Prescott, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s (NHPR’s) Word of Mouth, will emcee the event.

While this is IINE’s first performance of Suitcase Stories LIVE! in Manchester, it is the sixth event of the traveling performance series, which in total has raised close to $60,000 and drawn in a crowd of more than 700 attendees. Additionally, the performances have raised critical funds to support the resettlement and case management services the International Institute of New England provides to newly arrived refugee families.

“The past year has been especially challenging for refugees worldwide, including here in the United States,” notes Cheryl Hamilton, Director of Partner Engagement at the International Institute and Coordinator at Massmouth. “Suitcase Stories LIVE! is an opportunity to give a voice to all new Americans who have struggled to get here but have succeeded in building a life in their new communities.”

Storytellers change at each production. For example, the Manchester show will feature six storytellers, including IINE’s Manchester Community Relations Director, Amadou Hamady, who feels his story will bring significant attention to the local refugee and immigrant populations in a positive and celebratory way.

“We are so honored that Manchester is a stop on this series,” he said. “We’ve welcomed new Americans in Manchester for over two decades and it’s important that our refugee and immigrant community can have the opportunity to come together.”

Proceeds from the Suitcase Stories LIVE! series benefit IINE’s programs in New Hampshire and throughout New England, where IINE provides refugee resettlement, English language instruction, workforce training, and citizenship services.

The event is open to the public, and a wide range of tickets are still available. General admission is $19. Special $100 tickets are available for a post-show reception for those who want to meet the storytellers and make an even greater impact with their financial contribution.

To learn more, purchase tickets, or sponsor the event go to: https://iine.org/suitcase.

About the International Institute of New England
The mission of The International Institute of New England is to invest in the future of our cities and towns by preparing refugees and immigrants for participation in the social, economic and political richness of American life through active citizenship. Each year IINE serves nearly 2,000 refugees and immigrants across our three sites in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire.

About Massmouth, Inc.
Massmouth is a non-profit organization that promotes the timeless art of storytelling in Massachusetts. Since its founding in 2009, Massmouth has hosted a variety of competitive and non-competitive events throughout the Greater Boston area, including its Stories from the Stage series at WGBH studios.

About Virginia Prescott
Virginia Prescott is the Gracie Award-winning host of NHPR’s Word of Mouth Radio Program, the Writers on a New England Stage series and the Civics 101 and 10-Minute Writer’s Workshoppodcasts. Word of Mouth is a weekly magazine-style show that digs into the nooks and crannies of New Hampshire to uncover the stories, places and people that make the state home. Prior to joining NHPR, Virginia was an editor, producer and director for NPR’s On Point and Here & Nowprograms, and directed interactive media for WNYC in New York. Throughout her radio career, she’s helped build independent radio stations throughout the developing world, and trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the Balkans.  Her commitment to the power of sound and storytelling led her to create audio installations in Houston; Watertown, Massachusetts; and at MIT. She was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University and was a member of the Peabody Award-winning production team for Jazz from Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley.  She is the recipient of a Gracie Award for Outstanding Host and loves working in radio, but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.

 

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On World Refugee Day, We Stand #WithRefugees

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By Jillian Woodgate, IINE Marketing and Communications Intern

What is World Refugee Day?

On June 20th, World Refugee Day was recognized in different ways across the globe. Initially established in 2000 by the United Nations, World Refugee Day aims to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees worldwide. It also exists to raise the public awareness of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time – the global refugee crisis.

According to a recent report on global trends of forced displacement published by the UN Refugee Agency, there are currently more than 65 million individuals that have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Just in the past year, 10.3 million people were displaced worldwide. To put this figure into perspective – the number of displacements is equivalent to 28,300 people forced to flee their homes per day, 20 people per minute.

World Refugee Activities at the International Institute   

In honor of World Refugee Day this past Tuesday, June 20th, the International Institute of New England (IINE) hosted activities at each of our three sites.  In Boston, we welcomed our partner TripAdvisor to our office where volunteers created murals with a group of our refugee and immigrant clients. The activity allowed our clients to paint canvases inspired by the flags that represent the countries they are from, and the finished product visually represents our clients coming together as one community in their new home. We also enjoyed a live musical performance by the talented Eureka Band.

Some members of the IINE community also traveled to celebrate World Refugee Day with employees and volunteers at the TripAdvisor headquarters in Needham, MA. During the day, TripAdvisor volunteers assembled and presented the IINE team with 50 children and adult bicycles for our clients. These bicycles are so valuable because they will create an effective means of transportation that will allow our clients to commute to work, school, and to the International Institute for English and workforce development classes.

In Manchester, due to the large presence of our refugee and client families, IINE partnered with the Richmond Middle School and the Church of Jesus Christ Dartmouth for a “day at the playground,” where close to seventy participants celebrated with face-painting, soccer games, drumming, bubbles, volleyball, and cultural dancing. These partners also held a school backpack drive, created home welcome kits, and donated Walmart gift-cards for our clients that will be used to aid them in their resettlement process. In addition, the staff in our Lowell office celebrated the day by hosting a lunch and brainstorming future activities to conduct with our clients.

 

Why EVERYDAY Is World Refugee Day

This day of commemoration helps remind both the IINE team and the public of the importance of supporting the world refugee crisis. While it is important to have one day a year for people to band together around the cause, the refugees need our help and support each and every day. We need your continued commitment to help provide immediate and long-term assistance to new Americans.

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2017 International Women’s Day Luncheon: Global Stories of Inspiration

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On March 8, 2017, nearly 400 people – including employees of 38 Greater Boston companies – joined clients and staff of the International Institute of New England (IINE), Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and WCVB news anchor Maria Stephanos to celebrate International Women’s Day.

This year, IINE observed the day by hosting a luncheon in the impressive Great Room at 60 State Street in downtown Boston to recognize the contributions and success of global women and to honor three extraordinary women: Boston Common Asset President and Founder Geeta Aiyer, WGBH Reporter, Creator/Host of “Otherhood” and Co-Host of “The World” Rupa Shenoy, and AARP Chief Medical Officer Charlotte Yeh, M.D.

Telling Their Stories

IINE was honored to have Boston Mayor Marty Walsh provide welcoming remarks, during which he spoke of the city’s increased focus on gender equality, diversity, and the wage gap. “I’m a labor guy. I stand for equal pay for equal work,” he said. “We’re going to stand for women’s health. We’re also going to make sure that we celebrate the diversity of our city.”

Maria Stephanos then moderated a panel discussion where the honorees shared inspiring personal stories about how their personal and professional lives were shaped by being an immigrant or the daughter of immigrants.

When asked how she would counter the argument that her parents should not have come to the U.S., Dr. Yeh, whose parents flew in from Pittsburgh for the event, responded: “My parents have demonstrated fearlessness, resiliency, compassion, and the drive to put education above all else. It is these characteristics and qualities as a child of refugees that I have emulated to become a doctor, a surgeon, a businesswoman, and the Chief Medical Officer of AARP.”

For many, the immigrant experience has left them feeling conflicted about their identities. “I have always felt like I’ve lived a hyphenated life,” said Geeta Aiyer, who was the second woman immigrant from India to attend Harvard Business School and has since built one of the largest woman-owned investment firms in Boston. “I strive to be the best Indian-mother, the best American-mother, and the best woman-entrepreneur.”

As a child of immigrant parents from India, Rupa Shenoy also has always felt as though she’s had a foot in two worlds. Through her podcast “Otherhood,” she elevates the conversation about what it means to be ‘other’ in this country. “My podcast was born out of my obsession to give a voice to first-generation immigrants, otherwise known as ‘new American’ citizens. Through storytelling, my voice is also heard,” she said during the discussion. She bonded with Geeta over the legend that somehow all immigrants from India come to the U.S. “with seven dollars in their pockets”.

The conversation between these remarkable and talented women underscored how significant new Americans are to the vitality and renewal of our nation, and how strong women leaders in all their diversities strengthen our communities. “I made the choice to remain in the U.S. It was my ‘free will’ to become an American citizen,” said Geeta. “I feel a sense of loyalty and am motivated to contribute to this country in exceptional ways.”

The Discussion Isn’t Over

The International Institute of New England serves nearly 2,000 refugees and immigrants each year. The majority of those we serve fled nations where they were persecuted for religious and political beliefs, and even their gender. Many of these women protected their families as they fled war and violence in places like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and other countries. They have overcome incredible odds to come to New England and they are determined to contribute to life in their new country. It is for this very reason that we must continue to support and provide critical services to vulnerable populations, especially women, not just on March 8th, but on every day of the year.

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