News & Events

World Refugee Day is June 20 – What This Means To Me by Dana Ibrahim Duffis

Where are you from?

What is your hometown?

Take a moment to ask yourself these questions. How easy is it for you to answer them?

For me and most of my fellow refugee community, these are often some of the most difficult questions to answer. It’s not because we don’t share a sense of belonging with our community or that we don’t feel welcome.

Often we are having this internal struggle to identify ourselves.

Personally, I lived in Iraq for 14 years of my life, but I have lived in Massachusetts for a little over 14 years now!

Massachusetts is home, Lowell/ Medford now is home. I went to school here and I grew up here. I became the best version of myself here and I learned to advocate for refugees here. I’m always proud to mention that I’m “from Boston” when I travel outside the US. Yet, I shy away from that pride when I’m home. I always feel like I struggle to fully belong to one place because of my refugee status.

On the other hand, this identity allows me to appreciate lots of things that many take for granted. Our democracy, our freedom, and our dreams. I would not experience these ideologies the same way if I hadn’t moved to the United States.

On this very special day, June 20th, we celebrate refugees. In 2001, the United Nations declared June 20th World Refugee Day, and just this week the City of Boston passed a resolution to recognize World Refugee Day.

Today I want to ask you to look around you and within your circle and identify the refugees in your network. I welcome you to ask them about their journeys, and what led them to make the difficult decision to leave everything behind and start over. I want to encourage you to celebrate them in your own unique way. Whether by saying something nice, donating in their honor, or sharing a positive message within your community to make them feel welcome!

At MIRA, I feel loved and appreciated daily, my co-workers come from all walks of life, and most of them are very familiar with the hardships refugees experience. They remind me every day of how important it is to share our stories and how important it is to honor our past.

To all of you who are reading this, thank you for supporting me and MIRA. We couldn’t do this work without your support. I’m often amazed by your kindness and your dedication to our refugee community and I hope today you make someone smile.