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Christmas Bureau distributing to more refugee families than ever before

About 2,700 families, which include 6,400 children lined up for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau distribution day in downtown Syracuse Monday. Pre-registered low-income families received toys, books and a food basket to help families get through the holiday season. And more and more, the families filing through the OnCenter are from central New York’s growing refugee community.

Salvation Army officials say about 15 percent of the families that signed up for the Christmas Bureau this year were from the refugee community. That’s the biggest number they’ve seen so far. It sometimes forces the volunteers to use gestures to communicate, as they take recipients up and down the aisles filed with games and toys that are chosen for children. 

And for some, celebrating Christmas is not part of the family tradition. For example, the Budathoki family, originally from Nepal, have been in Syracuse for about two years. In that time, 10-year old Binssa has learned English. Translating for her mother, she describes the meaning of Christmas for their family, which is not Christian, but Hindu.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
The Budathoki family.

While Binssa speaks fluently, the adults in her family are still finding language the biggest challenge they face in Syracuse. But, Binssa says on behalf of her family, they are glad to be here.

"People are not different here -- like black people, white people, they are all together. Nice people, friendly.”

As for Binssa, the LeMoyne Elementary fifth-grader would like to go back to Nepal sometime, but for now has a goal of becoming a doctor.

"Because to save people’s life. I don’t know if I can save their lives, but try to make them better.”