Daemen World Refugee Day Celebration will Present Life Stories from Local Refugees

Local Refugees from Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burma, and Somalia will talk about their life Experiences 

June 7, 2013 



Contact:  Mike Andrei

                Director-College Relations

                (716) 839-8472




Information: Dr. Joseph Sankoh

                 Associate Professor of History and

                 Political Science



                Cheryl Bird

                Executive Director-Daemen Center for

                Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement



            With the goal of better understanding the experiences of refugees in our community, Daemen College will present a program focused around World Refugee Day.  


           Supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities (NYCH), and in collaboration with community-based organizations, individuals, and scholars, the College will host a half-day round table forum 12 noon on World Refugee Day, June 20, on the Daemen campus, 4380 Main Street in Amherst.  This event is free and open to the public.  


           “Our vision is to engage a public audience in hearing the refugee story in ways they may not have before,” said Daemen President Gary A. Olson.  


           “We seek to raise awareness about many of the issues facing newcomers to our community and the U.S., to illustrate how refugees and immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, students, and, our own ancestors.”


           Held each year on June 20, World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations to honor the courage, strength, and determination of women, men, and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict, and violence.  


           The event will begin with a half-day forum at Daemen centered around World Refugee Day. The event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Claude Welch, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Political Science at SUNY-Buffalo and an expert on human rights, will present his latest research on human rights and refugees.   


           A panel presentation featuring local refugees from Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burma, and Somalia who are currently living in Buffalo will follow. Refugee speakers will share their life stories with those participating in the event. One young man who will share his story is Saladi Shebule. Originally from Somalia, Saladi fled with his family to a refugee camp in Kenya when he was very young.  He began in Daemen’s program in 2006, and, having just graduated from Daemen, is now working for the Coalition for Economic Justice promoting workers rights for refugees.


           The panel will be facilitated by project director and Daemen Associate Professor of History and Political Science Dr. Joseph Sankoh. 


           “This initiative builds upon Daemen's interdisciplinary Global Studies minor,” said Sankoh. “Daemen is also deeply involved with the Buffalo refugee community. Each year many Daemen students volunteer their time and energy working with the refugees on Buffalo’s West Side, through the Daemen Service Learning Program, to assist all refugees in starting new lives here in Western New York.  


           “We also want to prompt networking and planning for a community portal/website for sharing information, such as events, oral histories, and publications, related to refugee scholarship and experiences originating in the Buffalo region or focusing on the Buffalo region.” 


            Sankoh pointed to The Bosnia Memory Project website as a model. The project includes recorded interviews; books, letters and photographs; and academic and curricular programming.  Through collaboration with the Holocaust Museum, donors, and others, the Project led to an exhibit visited by more than 10,000 people. 


           Dr. Ben Moore, of Fontbonne University in St. Louis, helped found the Bosnia Memory Project. It is dedicated to establishing an enduring record of Bosnian genocide survivors, especially those living in the St. Louis region. Dr. Moore is a consulting partner with the Daemen World Refugee Day event, as part of the NYCH planning grant. 


           The Daemen World Refugee Day Celebration is sponsored by the Daemen Refugee Studies Program; the Daemen History and Political Science Department. and Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement. The event is also supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. 


Note: This event is planned to complement other World Refugee Day celebrations and events taking place in Buffalo. In addition to the Forum, Daemen is also collaborating with BIREC (Buffalo Immigrant & Refugee Empowerment Coalition) on activities and events in the community: 


Saturday, June 22, 2013: 10 Nation Refugee Soccer Tournament at LaSalle Park in Buffalo Sunday, June 23, 2013: Proclamation of World Refugee Day Ethnic Festival & Award Ceremony,  YWCA of WNY, 1005 Grant Street, in Buffalo.



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