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Tampa Interfaith Event Brings Communities Together

Tampa, Fl.— “Feels Like Home,” was the theme of this year’s Interfaith Refugee Event hosted by a variety of Hillsborough County based organizations. The aim: to bring communities and their diverse refugee populations together.

 

The interfaith “Feels Like Home” event took place Jan. 21, at the Temple Terrace United Methodist Church from 4-6p.m. Some of the organizations that participated included The Black Feather Foundation (TBFF)—a non-profit, headquartered out of Culpeper, Va., but operates sports related programs within the Tampa area, — Lutheran Services, Florida Department of Children and Families, and other non-profit, religious charities and local government organizations. In total, there were over ten organizations that came together to demonstrate their support for the refugees within their communities.

 

“It was a wonderful opportunity for The Black Feather Foundation to meet our peers in the Tampa area and join forces to help welcome families, and plant seeds of hope, letting them all see, hear and feel a genuine ‘Welcome Home,’” said Candace Cieslo, TBFF’s Chief of Programs who spearheads the Tampa area partnerships and collaborative operations for the non-profit.


“One of the purposes of this event was to welcome and integrate new refugees into the local community of Tampa, which aligns with The Black Feather Foundation's mission of assisting refugee children in transitioning through sports and holistic support,” said Patti Katter, Chief Executive Officer of TBFF. “It highlights the importance of children's well-being, emphasizing that they too, need activities and attention during the resettlement process.”

 

There was a myriad of activities to engage in for both children and adults. Children engaged in play that included kick ball, jumping rope, playing catch, hula hooping and participating in arts and crafts, to name a few. Other activities, for all attendees, included breaking bread with each other, enjoying a variety of ethnic dishes, singing and dancing.


Tampa, Fl.— “Feels Like Home,” was the theme of this year’s Interfaith Refugee Event hosted by a variety of Hillsborough County based organizations. The aim: to bring communities and their diverse refugee populations together.

 

The interfaith “Feels Like Home” event took place Jan. 21, at the Temple Terrace United Methodist Church from 4-6p.m. Some of the organizations that participated included The Black Feather Foundation (TBFF)—a non-profit, headquartered out of Culpeper, Va., but operates sports related programs within the Tampa area, — Lutheran Services, Florida Department of Children and Families, and other non-profit, religious charities and local government organizations. In total, there were over ten organizations that came together to demonstrate their support for the refugees within their communities.

 

“It was a wonderful opportunity for The Black Feather Foundation to meet our peers in the Tampa area and join forces to help welcome families, and plant seeds of hope, letting them all see, hear and feel a genuine ‘Welcome Home,’” said Candace Cieslo, TBFF’s Chief of Programs who spearheads the Tampa area partnerships and collaborative operations for the non-profit.

 

“One of the purposes of this event was to welcome and integrate new refugees into the local community of Tampa, which aligns with The Black Feather Foundation's mission of assisting refugee children in transitioning through sports and holistic support,” said Patti Katter, Chief Executive Officer of TBFF. “It highlights the importance of children's well-being, emphasizing that they too, need activities and attention during the resettlement process.”

 

There was a myriad of activities to engage in for both children and adults. Children engaged in play that included kick ball, jumping rope, playing catch, hula hooping and participating in arts and crafts, to name a few. Other activities, for all attendees, included breaking bread with each other, enjoying a variety of ethnic dishes, singing and dancing.

 

Candace Cieslo (center), The Black Feather Foundation's Chief of Programs, photographed with other collaborators of the interfaith event: (L-R) Vivian Farid from Coptic World Services; Janet Blair from the State of Florida; Luis Soria from Church World Services; Ghadir Kassab from Radiant Hands; and Pastor Sally Campbell-Evans from Hyde Park United Methodist. Not show is Yasmin Sayed from Lutheran Services.

 

“This is really what this event is doing; helping refugee families acclimate to their new environment,” Cieslo said. “It’s an introduction for refuges to meet other refugees; engage their neighbors; learn about some resources that are available; and meet some of the people who can help them. We’re helping to build communities.”

 

Within the state of Florida, its communities have seen a large influx of refugees; individuals who have fled their countries, seeking refuge from war, political oppression, religious persecution, or a natural disaster. Hillsborough County saw over 14,000 refugee arrivals last fiscal year. About a fourth of the refugees arriving in Florida are children younger than the age of 19.

 

The array of refugees, many whom are children, coming from various parts of the world are far and wide. At the interfaith event Somalis, Ukrainians, Dominicans, Afghans and many others were among the refugees in attendance; nearly 215 people in total, with 35 families, and 45 of whom were volunteers who helped make the event a success.

 

“We couldn’t have put on this collaborative event without the help of our amazing volunteers,” Cieslo said. “Between greeting and making everyone feel at home, serving as translators, leading the children’s activities, setting up and teardown of the venue, our volunteers went above and beyond expectation. It’s all about community.”

 

The Black Feather Foundation intends on continuing to partner with other organizations like this interfaith event, with the continued aim of investing in children, empowering families and strengthening communities.

 

“Working with people from different political and religious beliefs, and from different backgrounds to bring peace and hope, particularly to children, should not be an exceptional event,” Cieslo said. “It should be the norm.  I hope that this work continues to bring hope and healing to all those who participated.”

 

The Black Feather Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2021. TBFF works to collaborate with other Veteran groups and non-governmental organizations to design, build and implement programs to assist with transition and acclimation of refugee children. The non-profit’s vision is to expand their reach to support refugee and displaced children from war torn countries and natural disasters through sports and related activities.

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