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The Center in Utica to host World Refugee Day celebration

The Center

The Center in Utica, which helps provide programs to refugees, is hosting a World Refugee Day celebration on Saturday, June 3.

Executive Director Shelly Callahan said she expects refugees from 20-30 different countries to come, and with the current violence across the globe, she said it’s a particularly important time to come together and find solutions.

"When you hear about a war someplace, the suffering of children, of women…they're not involved in this conflict in any way,” Callahan said. “They just suffer incredible violence and loss of everything."

One refugee who lives in Utica is Islam Mohamed. She fled to the United States in 2013 when war broke out where her family was living in Libya. She’s originally from Sudan, and she said watching the violence there now breaks her heart.

"I'm glad that the U.S. welcomes refugees,” she said. “And I'm glad that they have this opportunity to live safely and to raise my kids without being in a war situation because that's tough."

In the U.S., Mohamed studied, got married, had children, and now runs a food truck business with her family. She plans to bring that truck to Saturday’s celebration.

World Refugee Day will include a number of family-friendly events that celebrate the city’s diversity, like music, dance performances, and crafts.

Callahan said there will also be exhibits that will show the contributions refugees have made to Utica over the past 40 years.

"These folks stemmed population decline, have come here, bought houses, started businesses, really revitalized faith communities,” she said.

Mohamed hopes World Refugee Day will also help to fight stereotypes.

"Refugees are normal people, but they have lived in circumstances that made them to be a refugee, so when we celebrate World Refugee Day, I feel like we will get a chance, for the refugees, to show who they really are," she said.

Saturday’s event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Hanna Park in front of Utica City Hall.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.