¡Oyeme! & HHF Address Child Refugee Crisis

Alberto Avalos

Innovation and Technology Program Manager

¡Oyeme! program designed to help area-refugee youth deal with trauma and through the arts

BETHESDA, MD (July 6, 2015)-Imagination Stage and Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) will hold a briefing to look back and forward one year after the Unaccompanied Minors Crisis caused national headlines. Additionally, these organizations will present an overview of the ¡Oyeme! program, which was designed to engage and help the refugee children in the Greater Washington Area deal with their trauma and better express themselves through the arts.  In attendance will be national and local leadership involved in addressing the issue. The briefing will include an update on the crisis, an ¡Oyeme! overview, an announcement by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, and a testimonial from an unaccompanied minor.

The briefing took place on Wednesday, July 8, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD. For more information about the event, please contact Emily Wilson at events@imaginationstage.org.

“A year ago, I brought a group of friends to the Rio Grande Valley at the height of the crisis who weren’t afraid of supporting the refugee children fleeing violence,” said Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Imagination Stage board member who has worked with Activist Luis Cardona on addressing the issue. “We got a first-hand look at the issue, but now the crisis has actually shifted from the border to our communities where the children are challenged with overcoming their trauma while being in another country unsure of their legal status far away from family, trying to learn a new language as they attend school, and fit in with other students. I’m proud to support the ¡Oyeme! Program through Imagination Stage and the best way we have of coping and expressing ourselves – the arts.”

HHF will support the ¡Oyeme! Program with a grant after a successful pilot during the 2014-2015 school year. ¡Oyeme! is a collaborative project that responds to the surge of refugee children fleeing violence from Central America who have arrived in Montgomery County, many who have experienced horrific experiences in their country of origin, as well as throughout their migration to Greater Washington Area. Project partners include Imagination Stage, The Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Montgomery County Department of Recreation, Councilmember Nancy Navarro, and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Street Outreach Network (SON). ¡Oyeme! strives to provide a creative arts outlet for young people, utilizing best practice culturally-based, trauma-informed theatre and arts activities to create a sense of community among the participants, and provide a safe space for immigrant youth to share their stories. Through these efforts, not only will the children feel welcomed, but they can begin the healing process that will allow them to assimilate into their new community. Imagination Stage has also developed relevant theatre exercises and dramatic processes to provide young people with an effective way to express their emotions, build relationships with fellow group members, tell their stories, and understand that—however dire their circumstances—they are not alone as they continue on their journey to escape unspeakable violence and abuse. The program was piloted in Wheaton, MD, has completed its first year, and will be expanded in the fall.