After the doldrums of January, February and March, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Charlottesville decided our staff and clients needed a chance to get out in the sunshine and make some new friends. Luckily for us, we had a wonderful partner in the community itching to get outdoors and build bonds as well!

St. Anne’s-Belfield School’s 6th grade class had spent much of 2024 focused on international studies, so students were excited to learn that the IRC has resettled a diverse community of newcomers who come from many different countries and backgrounds. When IRC staff heard that students at St. Anne’s were interested in a fun-filled cultural exchange, IRC's youth specialists asked their clients what they thought about an International Field Day on April 4th. The answer? An enthusiastic “yes” from around 30 middle schoolers!

Thanks to an incredible collaboration with St. Anne’s-Belfield led by Director of Civic Engagement Bob Troy, about 80 children in all were able to come together for a day of activities at Darden Towe Park. Students wore nametags to break the ice, using them to introduce themselves and welcome one another, and groups were quick to jump into some games of soccer and kickball. Aware that some IRC clients might be fasting for Ramadan, low-impact pastimes like kite-flying, crafting and nature walks were also available. When it was time for a break after all the excitement, students enjoyed a halal pizza lunch, and those waiting until sunset to break their fast were able to box some slices for home. In all, it was a day of joy and discovery; boundary lines blurred, new friendships bloomed, and many children discovered a beautiful corner of Charlottesville they’d never seen before.

“The IRC has been a part of the Charlottesville community for the past 25 years,” said Clara Stelow, an IRC Education AmeriCorps Member who played a major role in organizing the event. “We’re really excited to continue to foster opportunities for our students to meet other kids from the community, and also for these kids from St. Anne’s-Belfield to welcome our new families into the area.”