WESTBROOK — Westbrook Middle School teacher Ekhlas Ahmed is hoping the World Refugee Event she is planning this Saturday will help help bring the community together and shed some positive light on the many cultures of the city’s residents.
“This is a celebratory event for the immigrants and refugees who sacrificed do much to find safety in this country,” said Ahmed, whose family left their home in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2005 to escape the genocide in Darfur.
“It’s always been a great passion of mine to bring people together. It is something I learned in Sudan. My mother was a community organizer, so I get it from her. I like when people are connected and there is a sense of community,” Ahmed said.
The event, which takes place in the middle school cafeteria from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on June 23 will feature musical performances from 1 to 2 p.m., an international dinner at 2 p.m., poetry readings, dancing and other presentations from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and an international fashion show from 4:30 to 5 p.m.
World Refuge Day was first held June 20, 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. “We celebrate refugees’ contributions and seek to build empathy and understanding for their plight and their resilience to build a bright future,” according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“We have never done something like this in the Westbrook community. I wanted to do something for the residents here, but everyone will be welcome,” said Ahmed, who was hired this school year to teach English to Westbrook Middle School eighth-graders through the school’s English Language Learner program.
Aside from bringing the community together in celebration of the area’s multicultural residents, Ahmed said the event will also raise money for a new version of the Celebrating Africa calendar she created last year with students from Casco Bay High School, where she used to work.
“The mission is to celebrate diversity, but also educate the public about the other side of life in these beautiful countries,” she said.
Ahmed will be spending a month in Sudan – from mid-July to mid-August – to gather material for the calendar and its accompanying documentary. She is not sure which other countries will be featured in the calendar, which she expects to come out by November. She will have a sign-up sheet at the World Refugee Day celebration for people interested in helping with the calendar and documentary.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x125 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mkelleynews.
Westbrook Middle School teacher Ekhlas Ahmed is organizing a World Refugee event for Saturday.