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Building Bridges conference to feature refugee stories

FARGO – Local refugees will provide insights into the extraordinary experiences that have shaped their lives at the Building Bridges conference April 3-4 at the Holiday Inn, Fargo.

Members of the local refugee communities from Bhutan, Central Africa and Somalia will describe their experiences as refugees and the struggle of resettlement and share how they have overcome challenges faced in their new homeland.

The opening day of the conference will include a presentation by Nola Storm on the local Growing Together Community Garden spearheaded by Olivet Lutheran Church and how it impacts physical and spiritual well being of the refugees and other community members involved.

Also on Tuesday will be a screening of the movie The Last Survivor, an award-winning documentary film following the lives of survivors of mass atrocities – The Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur and Congo – as they struggled to make sense of their tragedy by raising awareness and promoting social activism.

The Building Bridges conference begins at 8:30 am Tuesday, April 3. Registration opens at 7:30 am on April 3 and the conference continues with other national and regional speakers through Wednesday, April 4. Building Bridges is presented by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota’s New American Services program, the ND Department of Instruction, ND Department of Human Services and the City of Fargo.

Other speakers and workshop presenters include:

• Keynoter Cheryl Hamilton of RefugePoint, Boston, describing the refugee assessment process in their home countries and why resettlement continues to be such an important solution for refugees;

• Jamie C. Chambers, Ed.D., on Responsible Ability Pathways training for building bonds of trust in times of conflict, Life Space therapeutic talking strategies to help children and Deep Brain Learning to better help troubled youth optimize performance;

• Debra Dawson, president of Fargo-based nonprofit African Soul, American Heart on Aspiration, Inspiration and Perspiration, including the difficulties of working with a traumatized refugee population; and

• Mary Schneider, executive director, Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, recently returned from an international legal exchange to Tanzania and Rwanda, on Women and War: The Continuing Quest for Gender Violence Justice.

According to Darci Asche, Lutheran Social Services community support supervisor for New American Services, the two-day conference is designed for service providers, educators and community leaders who work with refugee families. Pre-registration and additional information are available online at . Conference fee is $80 for the full conference, $50 for Tuesday only and $40 for Wednesday only. For late registrations, call 701-271-1604 and leave your name, address and agency. You can also register at the door.

Lutheran Social Services’ New American Services program works with the US government to help about 400 of the nation’s 30,000 admitted refugees to establish a home in North Dakota each year. The program’s goal is to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency as soon as possible by providing resettlement, employment and other services. A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country because of persecution or fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is a nonprofit social services agency serving thousands of North Dakotans annually from offices in five cities with 19 programs that strengthen individuals, families and communities without regard to clients’ race, religion, gender or economic status.

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Contact: Darci Asche, Community Support Supervisor, New American Services, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, 1325 11th St. S., Fargo, ND 58103, 701-271-1604

Alternate Contact: Kathryn Trill, Communications Manager, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, 701-271-3289 (Fargo)

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