For more than 5 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has celebrated World Refugee Day with our annual Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy (“the Academy”) in late June. Each year, the LIRS Academy equips former refugees and migrants with advocacy training, media training, and the tools to tell their own unique story. Historically, this event has concluded with networking activities in Washington D.C, during which Academy participants visit members of Congress to share their stories of courage and advocate for refugee and migrant communities. Participants come away from the event as “alumni” of the Academy and go on to become leaders and advocates in their own local communities.
This year, in an effort to extend this opportunity to more refugees and migrants, LIRS has decided to take a grassroots approach to the 2018 Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy!
Inspired by past successes, LIRS is working with Academy alumni from previous years to host state-level events in communities across the country. Similar to the cornerstone initiative, these local Academy events will feature training on current immigration policies, “Know Your Rights” and civic-engagement workshops, grassroots advocacy seminars, and advocacy visits to state and local government officials.
To kick things off, Academy cohort leaders in the State of Georgia in partnership with Lutheran Services of Georgia and the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies in the State organized a highly successful advocacy event in Atlanta last March as part of the fifth-annual New American’s Celebration. Over 250 people attended the event, engaging 44 lawmakers.
Other states that will be hosting Academies this year include Texas, Ohio, Nebraska, and New Hampshire.
To complement these state-level events, LIRS will celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th with a Congressional Hill Visit Fly-in Day, during which we will welcome Academy alumni and leaders from key states to Washington, DC. Participants will get to share their stories with their elected members of Congress and advocate for issues of importance to their communities.