TWIN FALLS • Today, the fifth annual Magic Valley Refugee Day coincides with World Refugee Day.
The worldwide observance of the plight of refugees was established by the United Nations “to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence,” says the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website.
More than 43.7 million people worldwide are refugees and internally displaced, according to the UNHCR.
The Magic Valley Refugee Day starts at 6 tonight at the CSI soccer fields on Falls Avenue. It is free and open to the public.
Since 1984, the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center has settled almost 5,000 people. Today, the largest group of refugees living in Twin Falls are from Iraq and Iran, with about 1,000 from each country, said Tara McFarland, case manager at the Refugee Center.
She said one of the most common things attendees of Magic Valley Refugee Day say is, “I didn’t even know there was a refugee center here.”
McFarland said the event in Twin Falls not only makes people aware of the nine ethnic groups in the area, but also is a way for refugees to thank the community.
“The Twin Falls community is very welcoming and very generous with their donations for refugee families. It’s their way to say thank you and give back to the community,” McFarland said. “It also gives the opportunity to have people come out and learn and ask questions.”
The celebration will begin with cuisine from Iran, Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Sudan, Burundi and Eritrea. Then several groups will perform dances and music starting about 7:30 p.m or whenever the food is gone. Booths will be set up featuring clothing, books and other items from their countries.
This will be the first year the event will be held on CSI’s campus. In previous years, it took place at Twin Falls City Park. Last year, the event drew 500 visitors.
Chandra Upreti, a refugee from Bhutan, has lived in Twin Falls for six years. He now works as a case manager at the CSI Refugee Center.
Upreti said people from the Bhutanese community plan to make samosas, curry and rice pudding. Samosas are vegetable-filled fried bread. The group also will perform dances done during festivals and weddings.
“Refugee Day is the day that we all get together. The main purpose is to give back to the community and say thank you for all they have done,” Upreti said.
Hawng Lum Tangbau, a refugee from Burma, has lived in Twin Falls for three years. Tangbau said the annual event is a way to share their culture and teach people about refugees.
“This is very important because some people don’t know about the refugee. There are so many people around the world that are here now, here in Twin Falls. People should know that,” Tangbau said.
McFarland said a four-year grant that helped fund the Magic Valley Refugee Day will end this year. She said she is looking for other money sources and making plans for fundraising. The event costs about $3,000 a year, she said, and the Refugee Center will have a booth set up to answer questions and take donations.