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Refugees share their stories at annual Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau showcase

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On October 9, the Colorado community came together for a celebration of refugee voices at the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau 2019 Showcase.

The Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau (RSB) was founded in 2017 as a way to help share the rich stories and experiences of Colorado's refugee, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), and immigrant communities.

Over 150 people attended the annual event where speakers shared stories of fleeing their home country, coming to the U.S., rebuilding their lives, overcoming barriers, and achieving their goals. Speakers challenged the narrative of what it means to be a refugee and encouraged attendees to invest in refugees, ensure the value of diversity and the spirit of welcome, and educate others about who refugees are.

“Please invest in refugees,” said Mohamed Juma, a bureau member originally from Sudan. “Because refugees are worth it.”   

Each year, RSB welcomes a new group of speakers to the bureau and provides storytelling and public speaking training. This year’s training was facilitated by Stories Without Borders.

One of the speakers was IRC in Denver staff member, Mousa Al Khafaji. Mousa came to the U.S. in 2017 with his wife and two children as a Special Immigrant Visa holder after having served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq.

“Imagine yourself in a place you call it home. You built your life there. You built your memories there. Your first job, your first car and your first kiss,” Mousa said at the event. “Suddenly, just the world by itself. You had to leave all that behind.”

In a recent interview with The Denver Post, Mousa shared that after receiving a letter with a single bullet inside, he knew he and his family were no longer safe and needed to leave their home.

“You had to leave all that behind. You left to a new place, to struggle, to build that all over again,” Mousa said. “Some of you may be asking, why all this? What’s the reason? For me, I had two reasons: A nine-year-old reason and an eight-year-old reason. My kids.”

The showcase also featured speakers from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

The Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau is made possible by a partnership between ECDC's African Community Center, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains: Refugee and Asylee Programs, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Denver and the Colorado Refugee Services Program.

The 2019 showcase event was supported by a community engagement mini-grant awarded by the IRC to the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau.

Click here to learn more about the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau.