International Rescue Committee: 'First Thanksgiving' Celebrations to be Held Nationwide to Welcome New Refugees to America

Nov 14, 2008, 11:37 ET from International Rescue Committee

NEW YORK, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Later this month, hundreds of refugees newly arrived in the United States will be joining the International Rescue Committee to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in America.

A week before Thanksgiving, community dinner events are being held in Phoenix, Salt Lake City and New York to bring together refugees from places as diverse as Iraq, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Sudan with local leaders, IRC supporters and celebrities.

The "First Thanksgiving" dinners are a part of IRC's new "GIVETHANKS" campaign which is designed to raise awareness of the challenges facing new refugees in the U.S. and to garner support for the IRC's key programs, including its resettlement programs.

Two of the "First Thanksgiving" dinners, to be held in Salt Lake City on November 18 and Phoenix on November 20 respectively, are being hosted by the GIVETHANKS initiative's founding sponsor, American Express.

A third event will be hosted by Ethan Allen, the home furnishings company, in New York on November 20.

IRC President George Rupp commented that Thanksgiving is the most appropriate holiday to welcome refugees, as it represents a homecoming for families and an occasion to express thanks for the precious gifts of safe, healthy homes and communities.

"It all began with the Pilgrims, who were a persecuted minority and made the journey to a land of freedom and opportunity," said Rupp. "The IRC and its supporters will share this great tradition with the most recent refugee families to arrive on our shores. It is a quintessentially American tradition."

Music, food and dances from Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan and elsewhere will be featured at each event to underscore how American culture is enriched by each wave of new arrivals to this country.

"What better way for refugees to celebrate their new homes in the US?" said Thomas Schick, executive vice president for corporate affairs and communications at American Express and a member of the IRC board of directors. "And what better way for these communities to come together to embrace their new neighbors? Thanksgiving truly exemplifies IRC's mission, from harm to home."

To mark the GIVETHANKS initiative, the IRC is also launching a new Web site, Visitors to the site will be able to explore four core areas of the IRC's work--home, health, education, and safety -- where they can select symbolic gift baskets to send to refugee families in 25 countries and 24 U.S. communities.

Media representatives are invited to attend the "First Thanksgiving" events in Phoenix, Salt Lake City and New York. For more information, and to arrange feature interviews with refugees who will be present at the "First Thanksgiving" dinners, please contact:

Philip Wood

Media Relations Director

International Rescue Committee

122 E. 42nd Street, 12 th floor

New York, NY 10168

Office:(212) 551-2950

Mobile:(212) 786 2458

The International Rescue Committee was founded in 1933, at Albert Einstein's suggestion, to offer safety and protection to victims of the Nazis. Today the organization's essential mandate remains unchanged: to assist people forced to flee persecution, conflict, and war. The IRC is a first responder in humanitarian emergencies the world over. And when the emergency phase of the crisis is over, the IRC remains to help people and communities rebuild and to help resolve root causes of conflict.

SOURCE International Rescue Committee