MRC Board President Speaks at One Million Bones Exhibit at the Austin State Capital

On April 28, 2012 MRC Board President- Yubelly Perez- spoke at the Texas State Capital for the One Million Bones Exhibit (www.onemillionbones.org) raising awareness about genocide and humanitarian crises in some of the countries that refugees are from such as Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and Burma.  

Below is her entire, beautiful speech:  

“We cannot live only for ourselves

A thousand fibers connect us

With our fellow men;

And along those fibers, as sympathetic threads,

Our actions run as causes,

And they come back to us as effects”

Herman Melville

 

Today I am representing Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC), a non-profit in Austin whose mission is to “empower refugees towards self-sufficiency through education, community and reconciliation”. At MRC we serve refugees from more than a dozen different countries — places like Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burma, Burundi, Bhutan and Cuba.

Refugees and asylees are people who have had to leave their countries because of civil wars, or political or religious persecution. Some of them have witnessed mass executions and other horrors. Their human rights have been annulled and their only alternative is to run away. Some refugees are resettled to various cities in the United States, and every year Austin welcomes around 1,000 refugees.

As part of our mission, last year MRC hosted Dialog Group Sessions. Ethnic representatives from different countries were invited to participate in these sessions. In a small room we all gathered, refugees and asylees together. Each one of us had the opportunity to share our story — why we had to flee our countries, why we’re here. Our words were connecting us to one another in each one of these sessions.

Some of the stories were hard to listen to. I remember once, sitting in front of me, there was an elderly woman from Congo who just months ago had escaped death. Other people were telling how they saw their relatives and friends being taken, and never heard back from them. Some of them had run off to Burundi or Rwanda and settled in refugee camps. Other refugees from Congo and Somalia were telling their experiences living in refugee camps in Tanzania or Kenya. They described how, in spite of the hard living conditions and sharing a small space with 10,000 to 12,000 other refugees — there is still hope.

People may end up living for many years in a refugee camp — ten years or longer — maybe spending their entire childhood in a place that is supposed to be a temporary emergency measure. They wait until one day they receive approval from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Office of Resettlement in the United States.

Once refugees have been authorized to travel overseas they need to purchase an airplane ticket to come to America. The Office of International Migrations gives every refugee a loan to buy it, but sometimes a family of 4 or 6 needs to pay for each ticket. When they arrive in Austin or another city they are already in debt. The resettlement process is not easy; they need to find a job, learn English, register the children in school, attend appointments with their case managers, learn how to ride the bus. And all of these adjustments have to be made in a few months, for the refugees to be able to provide for themselves and their families.

At MRC we acknowledge the participants’ past. From those different past experiences we learn to build a future in our organization. One of our participants is a refugee from Congo who could not be here today. But he always reminds us we cannot overlook the horrors being committed in Africa.  The mass murder, torture, children becoming soldiers, sexual violence against women — it may not be in the news every day, but that does not mean it is not happening. I believe we are all deeply connected. So if we are to remain fully human ourselves, we must keep alive the memory and awareness of these things that are done to others.

On behalf of MRC and all the refugees that participate in our programs, I am inviting you to connect their survival stories with today’s action. I will end with a poem by a refugee from Bhutan. Keshav Ghimery:

 

Bare-footed, hungry stomach, with no national identity, we are refugee

Hunted by both the Government and the God, we are refugee

Deserting lovely house without being noticing dusk,

dawn or starless night,

vacating our dwelling place with bare foot and without a grain of rice in stomach, we are refugee

Roofing under the deep blue skies and bared earth as loving bed,

Young, old, adult, maiden and all we are refugee

Hopes, aspiration entangled till we are alive and

Difficult to forget awesome panic,

Deserting homeland enridden upon relatives corpse

Without being mercy, we are refugee

No signals of Human Rights, no place to report our claim,

Survival, we beg for Human Right, we are refugee

No regret or bygone days, shattered with tears and blood,

We opt for freedom now, we are refugee.

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Poem by Keshav Ghimery in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps

MRC celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps with the Heart of Texas Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on March 5th with a day of service at the MRC Community Center.  We look forward to sharing pictures and a recap of that day very soon but wanted to share a very special poem written in honor of this day by Keshav Ghimery, from Bhutan.

Volunteer Service For Better Community

 

Personal, society and for the country well being, cultivate the habit of social work, my friend .

Spread the relation of brotherhood throughout the world, my friend.

Everybody survives for one-self, culminate the habit to sustain to others .

Social welfare work is not new, quicken to serve for society, my friends.

Idea, wisdom, techniques if shared, can  prosper further .

Life is a challenge, so let us do something and move ahead, my friends.

We don’t have anything to aspect from society,  let us give something  from our side.

Pack bags of Prosperous, happy and enlighten wisdom, my friends.

The rosy and rainy bygone days give support to forget the present sad and happy days.

A chance comes for one in life, try culminate to be social volunteer, my friends.

 

 

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Poem by Keshav Ghimirey- Bhutanese refugee settled to Austin

Bear-footed, hungry stomach, with no national identity, we are refugee

Hunted by both the Government and the God, we are refugee//

 

Deserting lovely house without being noticing dusk, dawn or starless night,

vacating our dwelling place with bear foot and without a grain of rice in stomach, we are refugee//

 

Roofing under the deep blue skies and bared earth as loving bed,

Young, old, adult , maiden and all we are refugee//

 

Hopes, aspiration entangled till we are alive and difficult to forget awesome panic,

Deserting homeland enridden upon relatives corpse without being mercy, we are refugee//

 

No signals of Human Rights, no place to report our claim,

Survival, we beg for Human Right, we are refugee//

 

No regret of bygone days, shattered with tears and blood,

We opt for freedom now, we are refugee//

 

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MRC Refugee Soccer Program Fall Season Summary

Our MRC Refugee Mens Soccer Team wrapped up our fall season this past month. Below is a program report by MRC Soccer Manager- Casey Kasper with photos from Chris Carson (www.chriscarson.com).  Enjoy!

The Multicultural Refugee Coalition made its grand debut in the Austin Men’s Soccer League on September 12th, 2010. The team that started out as a dream in April, materialized into the very first practice on May 19thand built up slowly with lots of hard work and late practices, was finally getting the chance for league play. There was a light shower early that morning, and now the sun was beating down mercilessly. You could cut the humidity and the tension with a knife. For about half the team, this was the first time playing soccer after a long hiatus due to Ramadan. Being a brand new team, we ended up losing the first game. Inside though, I was smiling for two reasons. First, it was a good showing against a group that would end up being the number one team. Second, the team reminded me of all the great soccer movies where outstanding but unfocused talent comes together. The first game is a little rough, and then there is that moment that transcends all language and cultural barriers.

Our first season can be divided into two parts: the first three games and the last six. For the first three goals, it was a learning curve with everyone getting used to playing with each other. We lost two of the three games. We had thirteen goals scored against us while scoring eight ourselves. However, after the third game, that is when the magical moment happens. Everyone becomes more comfortable communicating with each other and working together. For the next six games, we had one goal scored against us. Yes, that’s right, only one! In these six games, we scored twenty nine goals. Our defense became an iron wall, and our strikers were on target. In our soccer movie, this is where the upbeat montage plays and everything clicks. It is great to see the cooperation between the seven different countries playing on our team. In this game of soccer, it doesn’t matter if you’re Iraqi, Afghani, Congolese, Eritrean, Columbian, Palestinian or Liberian. For those ninety minutes, you’re brothers working together for the same goal.

There have been many challenges in getting this team set up. There has been a lot of hard work both on the players’ side and behind the scenes. Coach Hassan has worked diligently to build this great team and handle any of the problems that inevitably arise between different groups. Alex and Meg have worked very hard to get the team in the Austin Men’s Soccer League and to bring players and water to the games. Another big challenge has been the changing roster. There are only a few faces that are still around from the picture of the very first practice. Many people have grueling late night jobs to juggle also. However, they’re still at the field ready to play at 8:00 on Sunday.

Right now, our team is running on all cylinders. It is a beautiful thing to see these guys work so cohesively. There have been some setbacks along the way, but we’re learning. It has been a great honor for me to help out as the team manager and watch this group mature as a team. As for our soccer movie, the premiere was a great success. Thank you for your help- for now we can have a chance to build on these successes and make the sequel even better!

Please consider supporting our team through the Global Giving campaign going on now until December 22nd at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/refugee-soccer-community-program/.

 

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Please Support the MRC Soccer Team through Global Giving

We have a Global Giving campaign going on right now to raise money for our soccer team for 2011.  We need to raise $4000 from 50 individual donors by the end of December in order to have a permanent spot on Global Giving’s site.  Can you please help us spread the word and consider making a donation at any amount towards our refugee soccer program?  That would be much appreciated!  Here is the information:

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/refugee-soccer-community-program/

 

 

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MRC Soccer Schedule

Come on out and support our MRC Refugee Men’s Soccer Team this fall. Here is the game schedule. Most games are played at Onion Creek Soccer Complex off of William Canon but a few are played at Northeast Metropolitan Park in Pflugerville. We have some great players and our coach was a star player for the Iraq National Team. Always a great time– hope to see you out there!

Team/Group Result Opponent Venue
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 9:55 AM Torchys En Fuego OCSC 4
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 9:55 AM Galaxia S.C. OCSC 7
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 8:00 AM WTF United OCSC 10
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 3:40 PM Shooting Blanks NEMP 15
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 1:45 PM The Most Interesting Team In The World OCSC 3
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 8:00 AM Three Legged Sloth OCSC 6
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 8:00 AM Jogo Feio FC OCSC 10
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 3:40 PM Austin Athletic Club Yellow NEMP 13
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Multicultural Refugee Coalition 11:50 AM Champion Jaguars (Toyota) OCSC 3

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Peace is…

I always have two calendars on my desk, one from Colombia and the other one from the  U.S. Every year my parents bring me one because it has all the Colombian holidays and other important dates. I’ve been living here for almost 7 years, but always half of my mind and heart is in my country; the other half looks at the U.S calendar while I’m at work.

Just a while ago I was looking at the U.S calendar planning my schedule for next week and I realized September 21st is next week, the day the United Nations declared as “World Peace Day”. I looked at my other calendar and that day was not marked as a special date. Neither one of my calendars has World Peace Day, isn’t this day an important date for all of us?

Then…I asked- What defines peace and why should World Peace Day  be so  important?

Peace for me is safety. My country has been living in civil war for more than 50 years, 5 decades and a lot of generations not knowing what peace is; violence victims growing up without their families because either they have been murdered or kidnapped. Colombia has 3.3 million Internal Displaced Persons-IDP (one of the highest ones with Afghanistan); most of them are farmers who have left their homes behind because the guerrilla has threatened them and to live in the countryside is not secure anymore.

Peace for one of our participants from Congo (DRC) could be silence. They are not surrounded by the sound of bullets anymore, the yelling of the militia groups taking away the women from their husbands, or kids crying because her mother or sisters have been raped and left behind. Sexual violence in Congo is one of the biggest weapons rebel groups use to terrorize the population. Fifteen years of Civil War and over 1 million of refugees.

Peace for a refugee from Burma could be freedom of speech.  Last year I watched “Burma VJ” a documentary about how the military regime has forbidden the Burmese to pronounce against the military junta. A group of people decided to take action and begin to film how government officials will immediately break out any attempt of meeting or protest rally. The Buddhist monks decided to be part of the demonstrations and a group of them were massacred, others left the country and now are on exile. Twenty-Eight years not allowing the Burmese to express themselves, 400,000 refugees in 2009.

We live in peace here, but for me and other refugees there’s no peace of mind because we are always thinking about what is happening in our countries. We spend our days reading the news and finding out what the government, NGO’s, and the United Nations  are doing to make this possible. There is always hope and there is a special day where we can raise our voices together and claim for safety, silence, and freedom.

You won’t see September 21st marked in your calendar either, but make that a special day with a minute of silence, a prayer, a donation or whatever peace means for you. All the persons who are suffering and are victims of violence will appreciate you have not forgotten this day.

Join http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/welcome on September 21st  and become part of the celebration

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