Department of Children and Families
David E. Wilkins
June 18, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Walfrank Pineiro left Cuba with his parents and two younger siblings and arrived in Orlando last year. Walfrank, now 14, could barely speak any English. Through help from the Florida Department of Children and Families, Walfrank's family was able to receive assistance to get back on their feet and the young boy was tutored on his new language.
Walfrank has been an honor roll student every semester at Wekiva High School and was voted "Pitcher of the Year" by his teammates on the Wekiva High School Baseball Team. Although he is a great baseball player, his dream is to study medicine to become a surgeon. Today, Walfrank will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement at Orlando City Hall during their celebration of World Refugee Day.
Many refugees come from Cuba to celebrate America's freedom. Some have arrived from Haiti, fleeing the earthquake and its devastation. Others have come from war-torn countries like Iraq, Burma and Colombia. They all want one thing – a better life for themselves and their families.
The Department of Children and Families resettles about 27,000 refugees each year in Florida. The agency's Refugee Services program is funded by the federal government to coordinate and oversee many of the services provided to refugee, including education, legal assistance, employment programs, and youth and family programs.
"These immigrants come here to escape war, violence and persecution in their home countries," said Secretary David Wilkins. "Our agency works with the federal government to provide home for these families, help them become self-sufficient and to allow them to experience the American Dream."
Every eight minutes, someone in the world becomes a refugee. Currently, there are more than 44 million displaced people around the world. World Refugee Day is sponsored each year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to celebrate and recognize the courage and experiences of the world's refugees. The 2012 campaign theme is "Refugees have no choice. You do." This depicts some of the tough choices facing refugees, helping the public to empathize with and understand their dilemma.
"No one wants to become a refugee. No one should have to endure this humiliating and arduous ordeal. Yet, millions do. Even one refugee forced to flee, one refugee forced to return to danger is one too many," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "On this year's World Refugee Day, I ask people everywhere to spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced from their homes, who are at risk of their lives, and who, in most cases, want nothing more than to return home or to start afresh. Let us never lose sight of our shared humanity."
Wahba Wahba gave up a successful career in Egypt to bring his family to America to avoid religious persecution. Upon arriving in central Florida, he began working in sanitation at a rehabilitation center, but wanted more security for his family. He has worked diligently on training for Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating Technology at Mid Florida Tech and recently completed the program. Wahba will be recognized during a World Refugee Day Naturalization Oath Ceremony in Orlando today.
"Taking the time to recognize the strength and courage of these refugees is very meaningful today," said Hiram Ruiz, DCF Director of Refugee Services. "Our help has enabled many of these refugees to raise their families in a safe and healthy environment in a free country for the very first time."
For more information, visit the UN World Refugee Day site at http://takeaction.unhcr.org or the DCF Refugee Services page at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/refugee. To read a story about a recent refugee, please go to http://blog.myflfamilies.com.
For details of events statewide, please see below:
- June 18: 1:30-2:30 p.m., West Palm Beach
Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Keynote speaker Emmanuel Morel, Assistant District Director, U.S. Department of Labor. Several refugees will be naturalized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service during this event. USCIS 9300 Belvedere Rd., Royal Palm.
- June 18: 5:30-8 p.m., Orlando
Reception, Recognition of Outstanding Achievement by local refugees and Naturalization Ceremony. Orlando City Hall, Orlando.
- June 20: 10-11:30 a.m., Jacksonville
Naturalization and Celebration, Guest Speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety. Twenty refugees will be naturalized. Main Library, 303 North Laura St., Lower Conference Level, Jacksonville.
- June 20: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Naples
Task Force organizing Family Festival with music, activities and short program recognizing employers. Lorenzo Walker School, Naples.
- June 22: 11 a.m.-Noon, Oakland Park
Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Keynote speaker Yolanda Coto, Senior Attorney, DCF Refugee Services Program. Several refugees will be naturalized during this event. 4451 NW 31st Ave, Oakland Park, FL 33309
- June 22: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Tallahassee
Tallahassee Mayor Marks welcome of refugees and deliver meaning behind World Refugee Day. Keynote speaker Cuban refugee Judge Ace Pedroso. Recognition of refugees and light lunch. Leon Human Service Center: Community Room 1000 W. Tharpe, Tallahassee.
- June 28: 9:30-11 a.m., Pensacola
Task Force meeting, with recognition and certificates of refugees and community partners, short entertainment, refreshments. Pastoral Center – Pensacola Diocese 11 North B St., Pensacola.
- June 28: 6-8:30 p.m., Doral
This event is being sponsored by a group called USA-Refugees. The event will be a social gathering of newcomers, immigrants, refugees, asylees and is aimed at networking and building communication with officials of government agencies, businesses, employers and journalists. El Arepazo restaurant, 7900 NW 39th St., Doral.
- June 29: 10-11 a.m., Hialeah
Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Keynote speaker Hiram Ruiz, DCF Director of Refugee Services Program. Several refugees will be naturalized during this event. 5880 NW 183 St., Hialeah.