“‘Just to Feel Connected’ – Love Your Neighbor event at Keach Park Unites Community”
[July 29, 2012] By Molly A.K. Connors.
Audrey Euphrasia, 9, right, crawls around kids scurrying and jumping around inside the bounce house at Keech Park during the Love Your Neighbor community gathering and soccer tournament on July 28, 2012.
Honore Murenzi chats with Zawadi Euphrasia and her son Emmanuel, 6, left, while taking a break from working the grills at the Love Your Neighbor community gathering at Keech Park on July 28, 2012.
Yelling and laughing, running and dancing, dozens of children enjoyed the bounce house, barbecue and face paint sponsored by about 25 local businesses at Keach Park yesterday.
But it’s more than food and games that makes Zawadi Euphrasia eager to thank the people of New Hampshire.
“It has no price,” Euphrasia, 26, said through an interpreter. “To feel loved.” Euphrasia, her husband and three children moved from Burundi in 2007 and were among the roughly 200 people – about 40 percent of them immigrants – who turned out at yesterday’s Love Your Neighbor barbecue and youth soccer tournament.
New American Africans, a nonprofit that helps African immigrants adjust to life in the United States, hosted the event. The goal was to carry forward the momentum from the fall’s Love Your Neighbor rallies held in response to xenophobic graffiti written on three homes of refugee families in Concord’s South End…
Maggie Fogarty, who is from Dover and serves on the board of New American Africans, said immigrants aren’t the only ones who benefit from events like yesterday’s. Native-born Americans do too, she said.
“They help us to be better at what we already want to be,” Fogarty said.
Leanne Sanders, 26, lives near the park and said she and her nephew came to see a truck from the Concord Fire Department, one of the event’s biggest hits. A student at NHTI who says she has a “Love Your Neighbor” sign in her car window, Sanders said events like yesterday’s help people feel more comfortable around one another.
“The more people you know, the better,” she said.
About 275 refugees – those who flee their countries out of founded fear of persecution – settle in New Hampshire annually, according to a 2008 study by the Carsey Institute at UNH.
Immigrants from all over the world – Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Bhutan and Nigeria, to name a few – turned out for yesterday’s event, organizers said.
Honore Murenzi, director of New American Africans, said his organization provides an after-school program for middle and high school students, car rides for those without transportation and a variety of other services to those new to America.
Concord fire Chief Dan Andrus likes Murenzi’s work so much that he arranged for the bounce house that dozens of kids of all races barreled in and out of yesterday.
“He’s doing such incredibly good things, and he’s working so hard to build bridges,” Andrus said of Murenzi, who moved to the United States from the Congo, via Rwanda, in 2001.
At the very least, organizers said, they want to make the barbecue an annual event and host similar get-togethers each season.
But Murenzi, 59, also said he hopes people carry the spirit of the organized events into their everyday lives.
“You need to be together as one community, not many communities,” he said.
As her kids ran around the park and drummers drummed, Euphrasia agreed.
“It is our joy just to feel connected,” she said.
(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)
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