Arkansas has welcomed more than 300 refugees to the state since 2003.
Celebrated annually on June 20, World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the world. World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.
Since 2003, more than 300 refugees have been relocated to Arkansas, according to the Refugee Processing Center. From Oct. 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, one refugee from Burma and two from El Salvador have moved to the Natural State.
Canopy Northwest Arkansas is a nonprofit organization that has helped resettle refugees for about five years. In 2015, dozens of residents came together to respond to the ongoing global refugee crisis, but discovered there was not an active refugee resettlement agency in the state, according to the organization’s website.
In February 2016, the group began working to meet the criteria to become a refugee resettlement agency and partnered with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services as an affiliate. Canopy NWA received official designation in October 2016 and welcomed its first refugee family in December of that year. Since then, the nonprofit has resettled more than 60 households, the majority of whom are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Canopy NWA is celebrating World Refugee Day from 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Wilson Park in Fayetteville with Chai and Chill. The free event, which is co-sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, is open to the community and includes homemade chai, iced coffee, lemonade and kite flying.
If you prefer to celebrate virtually this year, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Phi Alpha Omega Chapter and the Tea Rose Foundation of Northwest Arkansas have organized a virtual panel discussion focused on initiatives for refugees in the community and the best way to support them.
Panelists include Stephen Coger from Arkansas Immigration Defense, Mariah Green from Canopy NWA and Patty Henson Sullivan from Ozark Literacy Council. The panel will be moderated by Sharon Munroe. The free event is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. June 20 and guests are asked to register via Eventbrite.