[October 17, 2012] By Sarah Palermo / Monitor staff.
A group dedicated to helping immigrants to New Hampshire connect with their neighbors is sponsoring two events this weekend.
On Friday at 6 p.m., New American Africans is holding a pot luck dinner and story-telling night at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Loudon Road.
“I want people to share food and talk about themselves, share stories,” said Honore Murenzi, a former Rwandan refugee, and founder and executive director of New American Africans. “When you talk with someone, you appreciate something about them you could not appreciate before.”
Dinner will be available courtesy of the New Hampshire Food Bank’s cooking instruction program, but guests are encouraged to bring dishes to share.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., local children in grades 8-12 are invited to a community-building day at Abbot-Downing School on South Street.
“Sometimes I go to the schools and I see some Africans together, some Nepali and Bhutanese together, and I think, how can we put them all together and try to help them connect and really to feel that they have the same struggles as young people, so they can grow together and be friends forever,” Murenzi said.
The day will feature games and team-building exercises from Unlimited Possibilities, a Milton-based nonprofit educational foundation. The event is designed to be held outdoors but will be held in the school gym in the event of rain.
The events are part of a larger campaign called “Love Your Neighbor,” initiated after the first instance of racist graffiti was found on the homes of African refugees in Concord. The campaign held rallies in the immediate aftermath of that graffiti and more that was found this fall, and is looking now at constructing positive opportunities for people to come together, said Margaret Fogarty, economic justice project coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee, which is helping with the events.
“The goal of the entire Love Your Neighbor campaign is to create opportunities for Concord people to get to know each other more deeply,” she said. “We know that Concord’s longer term residents have a great desire to get to know the immigrants and refugees, to welcome these newcomers, and create a stronger community bridging across all this wonderful diversity Concord is experiencing.”
Murenzi said that though the events may be held in Concord, his goal is to affect the atmosphere in all communities in the state.
“What I’m trying to do is not only for Concord. I would like Concord to be a light for the whole of New Hampshire in creating community,” he said. “What the capital does, the other towns can learn from.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or email@example.com or on Twitter @SpalermoNews.)
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