Today on World Refugee Day, we are proud to support, honor, and celebrate refugees from around the world.
In partnership with the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Catholic Charities Community Services organized the 7th Annual World Refugee Day Community Arts Festival this past weekend in Brooklyn. The festival featured refugee performers from around the world, with music, dance, theatre, poetry, and more.
“World Refugee Day is a day of celebration,” said Kelly Agnew-Barajas, Director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities Community Services. “The event is to recognize the resilience of the refugees we work with and the staff that we work with, who are almost all refugees themselves.”
The festival featured performances by Zoya Tatarinova, a Ukrainian refugee and client of Catholic Charities. Ms. Tatarinova is a musician and music teacher who fled the war in Ukraine last year. At the festival, Ms. Tatarinova shared traditional Ukrainian folk songs that she now often plays at her new church in New York.
“When you are far from your country and your family, music can be nostalgic. I play this music and it is like my soul,” she said.
Ms. Tatarinova left behind her daughter and grandson in Ukraine, where living conditions have remained difficult, and she has been working to reunite with them. “It is my greatest hope for my daughter and my grandson to find a good way here and a good life here,” she said. Thankfully, Ms. Tatarinova will be reunited with her family next month in New York.
Catholic Charities provides a range of services to welcome and support refugees in their home in New York.
“For refugees that are arriving directly from overseas, we literally make the beds, stock the cabinets with food and groceries, make sure they have clothing, pick them up from the airport, and bring them their first meal in the United States,” said Ms. Agnew-Barajas.
In addition to pre-arrival preparation and supporting refugees with housing services, Catholic Charities connects refugees with benefits, such as health insurance and the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP), enrolls children in schools, provides English language classes, helps refugees find employment, and much more.
The festival also included remarks from Commissioner Manuel Castro of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, who recognized the critical work of Catholic Charities for refugees and asylum seekers.
“The moment that asylum seekers began to arrive, I knew that Catholic Charities was going to be a strong partner in all this work,” said the Commissioner. “We have now together served over 27,000 asylum seekers with a variety of services. That’s a huge accomplishment. Thank you, Catholic Charities.”
“We are serving people every single day with dignity, compassion, and respect—allowing people to be who they are and contribute their skills to the world,” said Ms. Agnew-Barajas. “The impact that Catholic Charities has is lifechanging.”
We wish you a happy and blessed World Refugee Day!