The One Journey Festival: A Refugee Advocate’s Dream Event
By Aseel Elborno
On June 25, 2022, Islamic Relief USA sponsored and participated in the One Journey Festival for their third annual celebration of refugees. The day was filled with music, dance, storytelling, food, arts & crafts, technology, and more.
One Journey was founded in 2017 by Wendy Chan and Vanda Berninger, two American immigrants who wanted to share their positive, welcoming experiences as newcomers with others. Today, the One Journey Festival is an annual event that attracts greater visibility and larger crowds each year. The entire event is organized and run by volunteers and supported by NGOs, multicultural communities, faith communities, government and academia work.
IRUSA advocates and volunteers took part in the Action Tent, the section of the festival dedicated to showcasing the humanitarian work of organizations working to help ease the lives of refugees. At the Islamic Relief table, advocates and volunteers pushed out the Afghan Adjustment Act campaign. The Afghan Adjustment Act, patterned after similar legislation such as the Cuban Adjustment Act following the Cuban Revolution, offers an important correction by allowing Afghan refugees the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent resident status, the same legal status they would have received had they been admitted as refugees. Advocates on that day explained to attendees that Congress has an urgent obligation to ensure they have a chance to become lawful permanent residents. As attendees passed by the IRUSA table, they were directed to the campaign link and advocates were trained to explain how the Afghan Adjustment Act would provide a roadmap to permanent status for Afghans on humanitarian parole after one year.
We were also able to introduce attendees to Islamic Relief’s other advocacy work, including the Welcome Refugees 2023 campaign. Because we are facing the worst forced displacement crises in history, with 100 million displaced people around the world, including 26 million refugees, it is more urgent than ever that the United States doubles down on the investment of resources necessary to rebuild the resettlement program to welcome more refugees this upcoming fiscal year. Advocates helped to explain this crises and directed participants on ways they can join the campaign.
The One Journey Festival was the perfect venue to showcase the advocacy campaigns that are targeted to amplify the voices of refugees. Many participants stopped by to chat, join the campaigns, and offer words of support. Islamic Relief has been a sponsor and a participant of the One Journey Festival every year and we hope to continue this tradition for years to come.