LANCASTER – November is a month where many remember to be thankful for what they have. During International Education Week, Lancaster campus students, faculty and staff will have an opportunity to hear from refugees in Central Ohio who are very thankful to be living here.
The campuses at Ohio University have different themes during International Week to examine issues of cultural tolerance and understanding.
“The theme for Ohio University Lancaster’s International Education Week is Safe Haven: Refuge in Ohio,” said OUL development director Mandi Custer. “We will be looking at the different cultures that have come into Central Ohio from places like Rwanda and Somalia.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., a panel discussion will be held (“Voices of Refuge”) in the Raymond S. Wilkes Gallery for the Visual Arts. The panel will be made up of refugees from around the globe talking about how they came to the United States and Central Ohio.
“I personally know one of the panelists, Norah, and she is from Rwanda,” said Custer.
In the 1990s, a civil war and genocide took place in Rwanda. Several ethnic groups at the time were fighting for control. According to the United Human Rights Council, the Rwandan genocide resulted from the conscious choice of the elite to promote hatred and fear to keep itself in power.
“Norah came from Rwanda in the late 90s because of the genocide there. Her story is amazing,” said Custer. “It is one of the most eye-opening, enlightening, humbling stories you will ever hear in your whole life.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m., conflict in another country will take center stage at OUL. Somali Refugee and Documentarian Tariq Tarey will speak in the Wagner Theatre.
“If you have the time to get away to come and hear this man speak, it will change your life,” said Custer.
According to the Somali Community Association of Ohio, Somali refugees started arriving in the U.S. in 1991. Since 1995, Columbus, Ohio, has proven to be a popular destination for refugees, and today Ohio has the second largest Somali population in the U.S. It is estimated that there are at least 38,000 Somali immigrants and refugees living in the Columbus metropolitan area.
Tarey will talk about how and why refugees from Somalia end up in Central Ohio. He’ll also show clips from his documentaries, which focus on the stories of refugees.
“One of the stories is of a man who literally walked from South America to California to get into the states,” said Custer.
“Tarey’s documentary on the Darién Gap is harrowing, but also interesting,” said Ohio University Lancaster English Assistant Professor Matt Wanat. “It uses the journey of one man through a stretch of dense forest and swamp between Colombia and Panama to document both the multinational nature of the refugee experience and the hardships so many face. I look forward to Mr. Tarey’s talk.”
Finally, two student organizations on campus will be conducting a refugee supply drive during International Education Week to help refugees in central Ohio. The items needed include cleaning products and school supplies. Boxes will be located in the buildings on campus for people to drop off donated items.
All International Education Week events are free and open to the public.