Napo Kpandja, 35, came from Huntsville, Ala, with his wife and daughter to be naturalized during World Refugee Day in Clarkston June 20.
“It is a powerful experience,” said Kpandja, who was born in the Togolese Republic. “Anybody from a foreign country who comes to the United States and becomes a citizen, [fulfills] a huge accomplishment.
“To become a citizen, I think, is the most important accomplishment that I have achieved so far,” said Kpandja, who has been living in the United States for eight years.
Several refugee resettlement and services groups from around the state joined together to celebrate World Refugee Day 2012 at the Clarkston Community Center.
Activities including outdoor games, a resource fair, lunch, ethnic music and dances, a fashion show and a naturalization ceremony highlighted the contributions of refugees in Georgia.
“It’s a bringing together of the two factions, which are the American population and the refugee population, to become one,” said Clarkston Mayor Emanuel Ransom.
The event helps “foster relationships and to bring everybody into one,” Ransom said. “It takes away that fear and that misconception of each other.
“This is a function that gets everybody together and lets everybody know that we’re moving in the same direction,” Ransom said. “We’re not separate.”
PaCin “Peter” Thang, a Matupi (Burmese) refugee, played his native music on a keyboard.
Thang, who has been in the country for four years, said his family moved to the United States to escape his country’s poor economy “to look for a new life and new home and to get a good education.”
World Refugee Day is time to celebrate the contributions of refugees in the community, said Katrina Braxton, volunteer for World Refugee Day and a case manager for World Relief, a resettlement agency.
Refugees “bring skills from their countries and they bring [them] here and they help our country better because of their skill sets,” Braxton said. “We have many doctors, lawyers, nurses, carpenters. Those types of skills and knowledge that they have they advance.”
MJ Maung, 13, attended the event as a field trip during summer school at Clarkston Middle.
“We came today because we can see many things and many people like Africa or Asia or United States,” Maung said.
Chell Ramirez of the International Community Players, a theater group made of one-third each of Whites, Blacks and refugees, said, “It’s a great way to be immersed among all the cultures.”