Archdiocese celebrates World Refugee Day June 20

Every minute, 24 people leave their lives behind to escape war, persecution and violence.

A refugee is a person who meets the United Nation’s criteria of leaving their home nation due to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

They seek refuge in other countries with the hope of creating a new life for themselves and their families. There are more than 65 million refugees in the world today and more than three million have entered the United States since 1980.

On June 20, the United Nations is celebrating World Refugee Day. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is joining in the celebration. Follow the virtual experience, “Journey of a Refugee” via Every day leading up to World Refugee Day will be a glimpse of a day in the life of a refugee.

Catholic Charities has spent the past 40 years working to provide reception and placement services to all newly arrived refugees in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Through the decades we have worked with individuals and families from several countries across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Catholic Charities employee Jessi Riesenberg remembers feeling surprised at one recent family’s arrival. “I think they literally brought their entire world with them,” Riesenberg said. “There were baskets, and a musical instrument. That’s all they had. It was a comfort to them to have it with them in this new place.”

After arrival, the next steps include supplying the basics: food, clothing, housing, financial assistance and living supplies. Catholic Charities also helps complete paperwork to receive documentation and social security benefits.

Catholic Charities works with families for up to six months after arrival. The families are connected with English classes, employment training and other services to help them achieve self-sufficiency. The Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program strives to make them feel at home in America.

For more information, go online to