Welcoming World Voices in West Hartford generates stimulating discussion

Kicking off Welcoming Week 2020, Hello! West Hartford, in collaboration with community partners, hosted a film festival about the contributions and challenges of immigrants, refugees and those who cross cultural borders.

The event took place online through West Hartford Community Interactive & Zoom and featured a screening of Navigating Hope by Sayed Najib Hashimi, Worlds Apart at Home by Abdirahman Abdi, and Rhythms of Respect by Katsyris Rivera-Kientz followed by a rich, hour-long discussion about a variety of interrelated topics including racism, integration challenges, the particular challenges facing refugees and immigrants during the pandemic and the impact of the current administration’s cuts in funding for refugee services.

The panel, moderated by Dr. Christiana Best-Giacomini, originally from Grenada, included filmmakers Abdirahman Abdi, a refugee from Somalia, and Katsyris Rivera-Kientz, from Puerto Rico, film subject Mani Biswa (Navigating Hope), a refugee from Bhutan and local community leaders, Esam Boraey, a refugee from Egypt and new US citizen, Martine Dherte, who grew up in Europe and serves as Refugee Program Manager for the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, and Ernestine Nobou who grew up in the Ivory Coast and serves as a Family Specialist with the Migration Refugee and Immigration Services at Catholic Charities.

“Amazing personal stories from the panelists and filmmakers like Esam and Abdi shared.  Wow, what struggles and sacrifice! Your panelists remind us that we all need to share grace, especially during these times.  Please do more of these!”

All of the films and discussion motivated me. The immigrants who presented are so hard-working and passionate about the cause.

We believe that the public dialogue about migration and immigration, stimulated by these experiential films, gave attendees an opportunity for connection, mutual understanding and ideas to take further actions.

I will do everything I can to help vote in a new administration and demand changes to make life easier for immigrants.