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World Refugee Day 2015: Boise At its Best

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Once refugees, now United States citizens. - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • Once refugees, now United States citizens.

What might 15 individuals hailing from the countries of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Rwanda, Thailand and the former USSR have in common? On Saturday, June 20 these people—all refugees—swore allegiance to their new home and became United States citizens in the heart of Boise's Grove Plaza.

The citizenship ceremony was part of Boise's celebration of  World Refugee Day, hosted by the Idaho Office for Refugees.

While a late June Saturday typically sees thousands of people streaming through the Capital City Public Market in downtown Boise, many of those same visitors ventured to the Grove Plaza to bear witness to the unique celebration.

“Boise really benefits from having diversity,” said Maria Babushkina, casework supervisor at the Boise office of the International Rescue Committee.

Babushkina and her IRC colleagues spend their workdays providing humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement. On Saturday, they joined a number of other agencies and nonprofits to honor and celebrate those they work to help.

“It’s a very healing moment for all of us,” said Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan as the citizenship ceremony, administered by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Bureau, began.

Within the span of 30 minutes, the 15 refugees became fully pledged U.S. citizens.

In addition to the ceremony, the 2015 World Refugee Day celebration featured dozens of vendors offering food, clothing, art and other goods from around the world. Music and dance performances filled a stage in the middle of the plaza, with performances from the All for One children’s choir and the Mladi Behar Bosnian dance group. It also marked the first year that the Idaho Office for Refugees collaborated with the Boise Creative Center to create an interactive mural on the plaza.

“It’s my first year and I think it’s very fun,” said Abdikadir Chimwaga, a Somalian refugee who was selling vegetables at the Global Gardens booth. Chimwaga, like many refugees, said he has benefited from the agricultural training program offered by the Idaho Office for Refugees. When asked about his favorite vegetable offered at the booth, he said without hesitation that it was Swiss chard.

“Boise is so clean and peaceful,” said Kibrom Milash, who with his wife, Tirhas Haillu, owns Kibrom’s Resaurant at the Boise International Market. Milash was manning a booth offering popular items from his restaurant. He and his wife began selling Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine in their refugee camp in Eritrea before relocating to Boise and opening up shop at BIM.

“Boise International Market is great, especially on weekends,” said Milash of his experience with the market. “I love Boise.”