On Thursday, September 19, 2019 in Winona, MN, Project FINE screened and discussed a selection of films from the New Immigrants and Refugee Visions (NIRV) project. The Screen&Discuss event culminated the organization’s Welcoming Week festivities. Welcoming Week, an annual event celebrated across the country, was developed by Welcoming America to encourage people of all backgrounds to come together to create stronger communities.
Katie van Eijl, Project FINE Program Manager, said that the audience of “mostly refugees and immigrants…had a wonderful conversation” and “a great community-building experience.”
“[W]hat I observed was that people were more open than ever before to share their reflections and even their life stories with each other.”
“We split the room in half for the discussions and inadvertently ended up with Spanish-speakers in one group and Hmong speakers in another.”
“The Spanish speaking group had a wonderful conversation about how they need to work harder to get to know people in the community — not just “American” people but also other Hispanics.”
“We should work to integrate among ourselves,” said one participant. “When we have an event, we should all switch and sit different places.” The Hmong speaking group included one gentleman who shared details about his work with the CIA in Laos and his time in a refugee camp.
- “I learned that [Immigrant’s rights are often in flux and extremely complicated].”
- “I learned [how committed immigrants are to the struggle of finding work and becoming part of the community].”
- “I learned that [while specific facts vary, the general thrust of people’s stories are similar].”
- “Films like this remind me to be compassionate.”
- “I have far more respect for the hidden struggles many immigrants face.”
- “The people in the films are normal people who just want to live normal lives.”
- “Immigration really often means leaving everything behind — we should try to be as understanding and welcoming as possible.”
- “When we are depressed we need to help and share with each other. Share these films with others.”
- “Treat newcomers with warm and open arms so they can feel safe in the community.”
“The conversations were wonderful and we actually had a hard time getting people to leave!,” said Katie.
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Many thanks to Fatima Said and Katie van Eijl of Project FINE for including the NIRV films in their Welcoming Week activities.