OSWEGO — A core community group of faith leaders, educators and professionals have begun to build upon Oswego’s tradition of welcoming new Americans to our nation, and what better day to launch that vision than World Refugee Day?
As the world comes together to celebrate today, June 20, the Oswego community is welcoming a new, non-partisan organization: Oswego Welcomes Refugees (OWR).
The group advocates for new Americans, who have a rich history of contributing to the community’s future. New Americans face challenges in accessing employment, health and education resources, as well as cultural acceptance. Oswego Welcomes Refugees will address the challenges facing new Americans with seminars and community conversations.
“We will create a network of individuals, organizations and companies eager to welcome new Americans and support their contributions to the life of our community. Helping new Americans who are already among us also prepares us to welcome new neighbors to Oswego, as refugee resettlement agencies like InterFaith Works and Catholic Charities have done for decades,” said Yara Osman, the New York State Office for New Americans Community Navigator at InterFaith Works of Central New York.
The group plans to provide a network of resources such as English as a second language, assistance with enrolling in local schools, medical/mental health services, cultural orientation and sharing, referrals and community services.
According to Dick Wood, OWR facilitator, Oswego Welcomes Refugees’ launch on World Refugee Day will draw public attention to the 24.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. This visibility will help OWR build a local network to welcome New Americans and help respond to the challenges they face.
This year’s World Refugee Day marks the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980. Since then, three million refugees have been resettled in the United States.
“The Oswego community has a rich tradition of offering hope and opportunity to those who have been displaced over the years,” said Rev. Andy Hinman, OWR Steering Committee chair and pastor of Faith United Church of Oswego. “Oswego County contains many significant stops used by people escaping the brutality of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and the city of Oswego was the only community in America to host, house and welcome refugees escaping the Holocaust.
“We have a historic civic pride of helping our neighbors break through the darkness of despair, see the light of hope, and discover new opportunities that enrich our whole community,” Hinman added.
The “W” in OWR’s new logo features individuals holding and raising their hands together – Oswegonians and the new Americans we welcome.
Oswego Welcomes Refugees leaders are inviting others to join this coalition as they bring attention to new Americans while building a support structure in their own area to foster opportunity and hope for displaced persons who can call Oswego home.
For more information about Oswego Welcomes Refugees visit woodweb.knack.com/oswego-welcomes-refugees.