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Perseverance and hope celebrated at World Refugee Day open house hosted by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Two women from the local Karen community from Myanmar, back left, entertain with song and music during the World Refugee Day open house hosted today by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
A group of four students and an adult chaperone from Myanmar are visiting Fort Wayne from June 14-30 in connection with the Sister Cities friendship agreement between Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine in Myanmar. The visitors and some of their hosts are, front from left, Thein Min Htike, 22; Htaw Chen, 30; chaperone Daw Bhyu Thi Khin, 54; Kay Thi Htun, 22; Zwe Htet Aung, 19; and local host Aung Tun of Fort Wayne. In back is Chad Thompson of Fort Wayne, who is coordinating the visitors' trip here. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Local refugees shared food, music and culture during the open house held today by Catholic Charities to celebrate World Refugee Day in Fort Wayne.

The event took place downtown in the lower level of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, 915 S. Clinton St.

Over the years, Catholic Charities has been the social-service agency coordinating most of the refugee resettlement in the Fort Wayne and South Bend areas.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports 68.5 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes, including 40 million displaced in their own country, 25.4 million refugees and 3.1 million people seeking asylum in a new nation, it said on the UNHCR website.

RELATED STORY: Fort Wayne refugee, refugee advocates offer ideas on what U.S. and other nations can do to help people stay in their homelands

Fort Wayne now is home to people from a multitude of countries. For example, more than 70 different languages are spoken at home by families attending the Fort Wayne Community Schools district.

Catholic Charities’ open house celebrates the perseverance of the refugees who have come here and started building a new a life, said Nyein Chan, the organization’s resettlement director.

The event also celebrates the hope that family members they had to leave behind will one day be reunited with them here, said Chan, who is a refugee from Myanmar, which formerly was called Burma.

“They are very resilient,” he said of refugees who fled their own country and often lived in refugee camps before being allowed to come to the United States.

Refugees can be a great benefit to a community and country, Chan said.

They are willing to take jobs that need to be filled and will do their best to better society, he said. Many refugees start businesses and help grow the local community and economy.

“They want to be a valued community member,” he added.

VISITORS FROM MYANMAR

Four students and their adult chaperone from Myanmar are visiting Fort Wayne June 14-30 as part of a Sister Cities exchange with Fort Wayne’s friendship city of Mawlamyine in Myanmar.

The students and chaperone attended the World Refugee Day open house today held by Catholic Charities of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

The students have been seeing a number of local sites, attractions and educational institutions. Future stops on their schedule include a tour of University of Saint Francis and Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne, attending the Fort Wayne Dragon Boat races this Saturday downtown on the St. Marys River, and visiting the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Castle Gallery, DeBrand Fine Chocolates and Sweetwater.

Students said they have been impressed with local educational opportunities, the many ethnic groups living here and how Fort Wayne residents don’t seem to have a lot of free time.

“When I get home, I will tell my students to work hard like the American people,” chaperone Daw Bhyu Thi Khin, 54, said. “They make the best of their time.”

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