Celebrating with Future Citizens

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On July 8, I attended a “July 4” (US Independence Day) celebration with a number of refugees many of whom will eventually become US citizens.  The last holiday celebration that I attended with refugees was during Thanksgiving 2016.  The organization that I work for, Iskashitaa Refugee Network (IRN), partnered with Desert Courtyard Apartments, where a large number of refugees live and St. Francis in the Foothills Church which hosts IRN as one of its ministries, to make both celebrations possible.

St. Francis in the Foothills, similar to many other faith communities in Tucson, is involved in a number of social activist ministries, including hunger issues.  Although many of the St. Francis congregants might be considered elderly they are highly engaged volunteers and want to make our community a better place to live for all.  This should be the basis for all religions, i.e. welcoming all people no matter what they believe and creating opportunities for helping them to improve their lives.  Besides volunteering, the St. Francis members who came to both Celebrations brought food prepared in their homes and shared this with the refugees in attendance. 

Desert Courtyard Apartments, a for profit company is family owned, with the owners wanting to offer opportunities to improve the lives of the people who are living there.  The July 8 Celebration was held on  a lot adjacent to Desert Courtyards with the longer-term plan being to expand the community gardens, installing a playground, bar-be-que area and a walking path and playing fields for the residents.  The current manager spoke to me about the residents being able to grow enough in order for them to have a farm stand where they could sell extra produce and start a business.  He also spoke about the residents being able to offer child and elderly care both of which could be profitable social businesses.  Depending upon how “invested” the owners become this shows clear signs of corporate social responsibility. 

(Although the local government was not involved in the July 4 celebration, from experience IRN stakeholders are very aware of positive endorsements of our efforts). 

IRN is currently involved in a strategic planning process, motivated to create a road map for the next 3-5 years.  This process has involved a variety of stakeholders. Vitally important to the success and acceptance of the strategic plan is involving refugees, i.e. those whom receive IRN services.  The draft vision is, “UN refugees are an integral part of a food-secure Southern Arizona community with no local food waste”, while the draft mission is, “IRN creates opportunities to integrate UN refugees in to the Southern Arizona community while reducing local food waste and increasing food security”.  From reviewing these draft statements, one can further understand the July 4 celebration and the partnerships and activities, which need to take place in order for IRN to be successful.  In fact, the July 4 celebration was all about creating opportunities for community integration.


This was my first Independence Day celebration in the US since 2008 as I moved to India in March 2009.  I try not to be nationalistic, because I feel this creates barriers between people.  Being back “home” and wanting to give my girlfriend Yasuyo a taste of Independence Day we attended a concert celebrating American music and saw fireworks in the evening.  However, the real Independence Day for me occurred on July 8 through a partnership between an NGO, IRN, a corporate, Desert Courtyard Apartments and a religious institution, St. Francis in the Foothills. The Celebration which took place on July 8 is really what the US is supposed to be about, i.e. refugees who had to leave their home countries and by their good fortunes ending up in America, a place which has stood for providing equal opportunities for all.    The reality for me is working through partnerships to help people hoping to become Americans to realize this dream for themselves and their families.



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