Why World Refugee Day Roanoke?

World Refugee Dayis celebrated internationally on June 20th to recognize the courage and resilience exhibited by over 21.3 million refugees around the world.

“While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.”

– Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

World Refugee Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 2001. Many localities in the United States hold events to acknowledge the positive contributions refugees have made in their community and reaffirm the commitment to assist refugees in resettling and rebuilding their lives.

Since 2014, the Roanoke Refugee Dialogue Committee has celebrated the refugee and immigrant population in Roanoke by holding “World Refugee Day Roanoke”.

As a member of the Roanoke Refugee Dialogue, as well as the Roanoke Refugee Mental Health Council, it is important for us at Family Service of Roanoke Valley to recognize and address the issues that plague our refugee neighbors—especially in regards to their mental health.

Refugee Mental Health

The refugee experience often causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks, adjustment disorder, and somatization–when emotional health issues show up as physical symptoms.

For individuals in need of treatment, the inability to speak well in English, and communicate effectively with a counselor deters refugees from seeking mental health services, and limits their awareness of those services in their community.

According to the 2017 County Health Rankings, over 2,000 individuals were identified as not being proficient in English in the Roanoke Valley.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley, along with community partners, has recognized this need and has made a commitment to not let any victim feel isolated or hopeless because of their language skills. In 2016, Family Service of Roanoke Valley, TAP, Salvation Army’s Turning Point, and Sexual Assault Response and Awareness (SARA) created the Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley.

Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley is a program that is focused on giving victims of crime with limited English proficiency access to counseling, support services, advocacy, crisis intervention, and more. Funds through the Victims of Crime Act New Initiative (Department of Criminal Justice Services) make language access services available to any victim of crime seeking services.

Since the program’s inception the program has provided over 100 units of service through counseling and advocacy services.

Remember, being a refugee is not a choice; and, in many cases they are fleeing from violence, persecution, and war. Yet amid these circumstances, they still show strength, determination, courage, and resilience. It is important that as a community we support them, and give them the assistance they need.

To learn more about Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley

please call 540.563.5316 (x3013)