Celebrating Youth in Baltimore and Around the World
Joseph had just returned from his first week of orientation for college, where he is receiving a full scholarship to attend a local university. He arrived at the Creative Alliance in East Baltimore in the early evening to polish his two performances for the IRC International Youth Day program.
Joseph was among many IRC clients who attended the first annual International Youth Day event, a day established by the United Nations in 2000 to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. IRC Baltimore staff, clients, and community partners celebrated the special event by enjoying ethnic cuisine, and displays of artwork, and by participating in art activities and learning drumming techniques. Culminating the evening’s activities was an hour-long cultural performance exhibiting the customs and talents of IRC clients through dance, song, and instrumental music.
As the last performance ended and the audience’s applause subsided, spotlights slowly illuminated three empty seats on the stage for the last event: storytelling. Joseph rose and walked up the stage steps, chose a chair and sat down, slowly gazing out into the full theatre. His anticipated moment had come.
Joseph’s story is one among many inspiring journeys of refugee youth who have resettled in Baltimore. He arrived nearly three years ago with his family, after having fled his village in Ethiopia due to tribal conflict. Coming to Baltimore with no English, and the oldest of eight children, Joseph worked hard in school to excel academically and served as a role model for his younger siblings. He detailed his participation in Refugee Youth Project’s after-school program, and explained how a mentor was assigned to assist his family with adjustment, integration, and other stresses affiliated with recently arriving in a new country. Today, Joseph is enjoying college and continues to advocate for refugees and youth by sharing his story, demonstrating both his resilience, and that of refugee youth worldwide. With the help of Joseph and the countless other clients and staff at IRC Baltimore, the event was a huge success, drawing over 200 people.