Cincinnati celebrated World Refugee Day a little earlier this year. On Saturday, June 4th, Refugee Connect, along with their partner organizations such as American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, HIAS, and Academy of World Languages, APNET, organized a celebration through soccer tournament. This is the third year of the tournament, with up to twelve teams participated. Each team organized themselves as "country" team, although there were two "Congo" teams.
Around the world, soccer is the common language of countries all over the world. We may not speak the local language, or the language of refugees relocated to our town, but most people know how to kick a ball.
Soccer tournament won't bring a job for most refugees looking for one, or a skill that will help them find a job in their new home, but it does bring people together and it raised awareness of refugees and immigrants in Cincinnati.
This year, I was so giddy when I reconnected with Refugee Connect, the dedicated group of Junior League whom I collaborated with three years ago to start this tournament. I was working with the Red Cross then, when the idea of soccer tournament came up. It's natural to think that despite where we are all coming from, soccer can unite us all. It's also a new and fresh way for Red Cross to reach out to the new Cincinnatians while promoting their international program to reconnect families. I contacted then the Refugee Connect program manager, Kelly Birkenhauer, and we worked together to make sure the first soccer tournament happened, while also making partnerships with other organizations serving refugees and immigrants flourish through this event. To us, this is not just an event. It is a recognition of diversity, potentials, and talents that we have in the city. Refugee Connect continues to serve as the main organizer of the event, including this year.
If you'd like to view more photos, they are on this album.