by Stuart Scott – Summer Marketing/Public Relations Intern
“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General
Refugee – as a student, I’ve heard the word many times. I’ve studied its meaning, and learned about its historical significance. I’ve even done a bit of research into the contemporary challenges and issues causing refugee crises across the globe.
But I never understood the word refugee. Not until very recently, at least.
My name is Stuart Scott. I was recently hired by Heart House as a summer Marketing and Public Relations Intern as part of the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program. A native Californian attending college in Virginia, I am currently diving headfirst into the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, and the DFW area in general.
With that being said, I must confess that prior to celebrating World Refugee Day on June 20, I really didn’t know much about refugees at all. I didn’t know any refugees personally. I had little knowledge of what the refugee community here in Dallas looked like. And I certainly couldn’t have imagined the hardships and challenges faced by displaced peoples in their everyday lives. I’m glad to say that World Refugee Day changed all that.
At around 10:00 am, Heart House staff and volunteers (myself included) gathered to partner with the International Rescue Committee’s Dallas Chapter and the DFW Community Alliance. Together, we set out to bring attention to the struggles faced by refugees beginning new lives in America.
Children and their families were asked to join us at White Rock Lake Park for a fun-filled day. Face-painting, arts and crafts, kite-flying, pinatas, and more were made available for children, and a handful of local eateries joined together to provide a delicious lunch for everyone in attendance.
As the day went on, I began to turn my attention to the behavior of the older family members in attendance. Adults and siblings were observing the positive effects that programs like Heart House have on their children – and soon, it began to have an effect on them, too.
They began to talk amongst themselves, feel more comfortable, and make new friends. Gradually, the awkward faces and uneasy stares morphed into warm smiles and chimes of laughter.
It was at this point, I believe, that I finally began to gain an understanding of what the word refugee really meant. Interacting with these families and observing the effects of our work on their lives was truly eye-opening. It demonstrated to me that, in the words of Secretary General Ban, refugees desire the same things that any person does – a loving, accepting community, and a safe place for their children to grow. In short, a place where they belong.
Organizations like Heart House are here to help facilitate this. By providing safety, education, and opportunity to local children, we can help make Vickery Meadow a community where refugees want to come to build new lives. Events like our World Refugee Day celebration demonstrate just how much we can accomplish together – and also how much work there is to be done.
When I arrived at White Rock Lake Park on June 20, I didn’t understand much about the lives of Dallas’s refugees. Luckily, the smiles I saw and the gratification I felt told me everything I needed to know.