BW Slideshow: World Refugee Day in Boise 

Celebrating our newest neighbors

Check out Boise Weekly's slideshow of Boise's celebration of World Refugee Day here.

For several years, local advocates for refugees struggled in how to best commemorate World Refugee Day. In 2001, the United Nations adopted a resolution to create an annual World Refugee Day, which cities across the world, including Boise, commemorated with somber events.

"But we eventually came to feel that we should make this a celebration," said Christina Bruce-Bennion, program director at Boise-based nonprofit Agency for New Americans. "The refugees are visible. They're a part of who we are."

And on the sun-splashed day of June 21, thousands of Boiseans streamed into the Grove Plaza to soak in the music and dance (the Global Lounge Group was a big hit) while sampling rare delicacies (NNN Uzbeki Catering couldn't keep the food coming fast enough) and checking out art, handmade baskets, jewelry and dolls from all points of the globe.

Most important, Boiseans welcomed their newest neighbors who, at the stroke of 11 a.m., held their hands high, pledged allegiance and became United States citizens. This year, refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine were sworn in at the Boise ceremony.

"When I arrived in Idaho in 2006, World Refugee Day isn't what it is today," 29-year-old Fidel Nshombo told Boise Weekly. "I honestly thought at the time that I was the only refugee here."

At the age of 12, Nshombo was separated from his family in Rwanda, which led him on a journey through seven African countries in search of safety before he was resettled in Boise in 2006.

"Over the years, things have been changing," he said. "I like to be part of that change. I'm a poet, and my writing helps to create that change."

For Nshombo, the change only gets better.

"I see people being treated better than before," he said. "I see more refugees arrive and feel comfortable because there are so many more people here who care and understand."

World Refugee Day can take credit for some of that.

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