REF Talks

By Rana Khan

To understand a man, you must walk in his shoes. To appreciate a refugee journey, you need to hear her story.

The United Nations High Commis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in partnership with York University, Ryerson University, and the City of Toronto proudly launched “REF Talks Canada” on May 24, 2016.

REF Talks is an inspiring speaker series featuring refugees who have made a prominent contribution to Canada. They will share their journey from violence and persecution to safety and self-realization. The 20-minute speeches are accompanied by artistic performances.

As first of its kind, REF Talks Canada hopes to connect people with personal stories of refugees and celebrate together their success, contributions, and accomplishments in their host country. It celebrates the resilience of refugees, captures the humanitarian spirit of Can­adians, and gives us a chance to engage deeply with refugee experiences.

UNHCR believes that the personal stories of refugees are influential sources of knowledge, motivation, and insight—tools to teach valuable lessons and open up wider discussions. Hence REF Talks will be video recorded and shared on the UNHCR Canada website and social media; some events will be live-streamed. The intention is to keep these videos in a museum on human rights.

Through REF Talks Canada, UNHCR and its partners wish to raise awareness of the positive contributions made by refugees to host countries, to create mentorship and to initiate a network of refugees and society at large.

With a staggering number of 60.5 million refugees worldwide, behind each statistic is a person, with his/her own story. Many refugee stories are distorted, silenced, or never heard. REF Talks Canada intends to lift this veil, raise refugee voices, and thus foster solidarity for refugees and society at large. To share these stories is to discover similarities rather than differences and to weave together a new narrative in this country.

UNHCR Toronto

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2016

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2016, page 21. Some rights reserved.

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