UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in partnership with Help for Progress and GMUR (Group of United Refugee Women) celebrated World Refugee Day.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in partnership with Help for Progress and Grupo de Mujeres Unidas Refugiadas -GMUR (Group of United Refugee Women) celebrated World Refugee Day in the community of Valley of Peace with the revelation of a mural that was painted by refugees and Belizeans.
The mural was created to shine a light on the need for the social and economic inclusion of persons forced to seek refuge, and to celebrate the village of Valley of Peace, established in 1982 as the first refugee-hosting community in Belize.
Juan Arias, Chairman of Valley of Peace said, “World Refugee Day is very special for me and for Valley of Peace. Many of us came to Belize seeking refuge and have found a safe haven to call home, rebuild our lives, and contribute to this beautiful country. Thank you to UNHCR, Help for Progress, and GMUR for celebrating this day with our community.”
The Valley of Peace community has been hosting people forced to flee from their homes since it was founded in 1982, and it is currently a safe haven to some 10% of the country’s total number of refugees and asylum-seekers who have been arriving since 2010. Currently Belize hosts some 2,400 registered asylum seekers and an estimated 3,400 more unregistered ones. Established for and built by refugees, Valley of Peace – a name chosen to highlight a community of persons having found peace after having been forced to flee from the civil war in El Salvador – became an official village and has contributed to life in Belize, especially in the field of agriculture, but also in professions as doctors, nurses, teachers, and public servants.
At the 2021 World Refugee Day ceremony, UNHCR’s Head of Office, Yolanda Zapata stated, “UNHCR is pleased that GMUR has painted this mural in Valley of Peace to commemorate the World Refugee Day. Firstly, because the community of Valley of Peace is a living example not only of the power of solidarity with people fleeing from violence but also of the power of their inclusion to support the development of countries that host them. And secondly, because the mural reflects very well the foundations that make GMUR and Valley of Peace so strong and that are embedded in the 2021 World Refugee Day slogan that refers to collective work, collective dreams and the need of care for each other.”
GMUR is founded by 6 Belizean and refugee women from different backgrounds and living in different communities in Belize. In spite of their differences, they share similar challenges and have come together to work in solidarity, and to empower each other and other refugee and Belizean women living across the country. This mural is the first of a series of community empowerment initiatives in Cayo district, coordinated by GMUR, celebrating refugee-hosting communities, and promoting peaceful coexistence between refugees and Belizeans.
World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on 20 June. This year’s theme is “Together we heal, learn, and shine”. Belize also forms part of UNHCR’s regional Jam Festival, an effort to share art and culture from Latin America and the Caribbean with the world.