In the spirit of outreach to the stateless women and children from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Chechnya residing in Azerbaijan, UNO Baku – Department of Public Information (UNDPI) team organized a cultural visit to the Refugee Women and Youth Centre for the 11 June, framed within the UN4U campaign. In the lead-up to World Refugee Day, the purpose of the event was to facilitate cultural exchange between the international interns on the UNO Baku team and the eager audience of international refugees.
During the course of the visit, recently-arrived UNO Baku interns Andrej Korenic and Vincent Kersuzan each provided interactive presentations on their cultural backgrounds for the education and entertainment of all those present. The interns themselves were additionally presented with the fruitful opportunity to learn more about their audience, adding to the element of cultural exchange.
The Refugee Women and Youth Centre was founded on 6 June 2003 within the UNHCR and HAYAT NGO project. The Centre serves to bring together all refugees from foreign countries in Azerbaijan, providing them with moral support and a second home to congregate and hold shared events and activities. With the help of staff members and women activists, the Centre has become very popular especially among refugees from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Russian Republic of Chechnya.
As the Centre also serves the purpose of educating refugees, providing them with such functions as language classes, library materials, and computer literacy training, an opportunity to learn more about different cultures was treated as a welcome gesture. The two young interns Mr. Korenic, a Bosnian-Canadian, and Mr. Kersuzan, a French national, delighted in presenting their audience with the histories, costumes, cuisines, traditions, and sceneries of their respective cultures.
Mr. Korenic, himself of refugee as a result of the Bosnian War, was especially inspired to present his background in a way that could relate to the audience. His assessment of Canada, his place of adopted citizenship, as a final home for refugees, encouraged him to say that “anyone in the room could look like and become a Canadian”.
The presenters followed their presentations with an interactive discussion that enabled them to gather information about their audience. One Iranian Azeri refugee from Hamadan Province in Iran was particularly grateful and remarked that the presentation “gave [her] hope”, adding that she was especially pleased with the segment on immigration, refugees, and Canada.
Mr. Kersuzan was similarly moved by his experience. “It was really interesting for me to interact with people of different backgrounds, to find out where these refugees are coming from, and to have an opportunity to share a little bit about my own background in France,” said the UNO Baku intern.