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Standing in solidarity: World Refugee Day marked in Windsor

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World Refugee Day is being recognized at the Matthew House Windsor refugee centre as a day to celebrate and reflect.

Marked annually on June 20, World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe.

"We are here to welcome the stranger and we do stand in solidarity with our refugee claimants," said Matthew House Fundraising Coordinator Michelle Valentine.

Valentine said this year's campaign focuses on solidarity with refugees, noting the day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.

"World Refugee Day to Matthew House means raising the profile of the refugees that we have here," Valentine explained. "Standing in solidarity with the refugees here. Making sure that they have the supports they need to thrive in their new community. Recognizing that they've been through terrible strife and pain, and they have the potential to be great successes."

Matthew House staff say they are 100 per cent donation-based and are currently servicing 123 men, women, and children between their two Windsor locations.

Valentine continued, "Many of the refugees who come here are fleeing desperate, horrid situations, and they're looking to save their lives and they're looking to save the lives of their families and make for a better future."

"Historically, Windsor-Essex has been an area where immigrants flock to. We've had the auto industry which has brought in many new arrivals and individuals. And we're a welcoming community and we're going to continue to thrive," she said.

Valentine added, "That's why solidarity is a key theme for us this year with regard to Refugee Day. Solidarity means standing together. Understanding our situations, supporting each other and finding solutions to work through our situations and becoming, a united and happy community."

It's a day of reflection and celebration for Luvabamo Bamoka, who came to Matthew House Windsor as a refugee four years ago and now works there.

"Never say never. Trust me. I'm one of the people who said never," Bamoka exclaimed.

Bamoka said human rights violations prompted him to leave for Canada, while not wanting to disclose the country he left.

"To leave home is not an easy decision, you know, to leave your home, to sit in another country. But when you face those kind of situations, when your rights are violated, we have no choice," he said.

"Being a previous person who needed help, who needed assistance, now I'm in a position of giving back. To do what was done to me. It's my time now to give back," Bamoka said. "It's my passion to help others.”

Valentine noted there are a few ways people can celebrate World Refugee Day, not only on June 20, but throughout the entire year.

"You can make a monetary donation, or you can donate in-kind items to us. We're always looking for bedding and small household appliances, furniture, etc., so that we can set our refugees up in their first time forever Canadian homes,” she said. “You can also advocate, help amplify the voice of the refugee and raise the profile, make individuals aware that these are people with great potential and they can and will contribute to our society.

She continued, “The third way is learn. Go online and understand how the world is changing and how it is a dangerous place and how these people truly are fleeing horrid situations. Situations you'd never hope to find yourself in."

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