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Come together

American Diaries

Open hearts

 

No matter how many walls are built, the power of food crosses borders and brings people together. This month, the third annual Refugee Food Festival is being celebrated around the world. It was started by French citizens in Paris in 2016, and developed by the non-profit group, Food Sweet Food, in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency, also known as the UNHCR. It aims to help change the perception of refugees in France and to bring people together over food.

The festival is now celebrated around World Refugee Day (June 20) as a series of meals cooked by 100 refugees in 14 cities around the globe. This year's event includes more than 100 restaurants in 15 cities, with San Francisco and New York representing the United States of America for the first time.

No tickets are needed to attend the festival. Diners simply make reservations at their chosen restaurants. The 100 participating restaurants cover the costs of ingredients, pay the chefs and donate a part of the profits to a local refugee organization of their choice. As revealed by data from the UNHCR, 65.6 million people were displaced in 2016, and more than half of the world's 22.5 million refugees are children.

According to a press statement, the aim of the food festival is to change how refugees are perceived, boost their professional integration, and "gather citizens". "We bring people together to showcase the skills and culinary heritage of refugee chefs from all over the world," reads the release. "A network of committed restaurant owners and citizens helps refugees integrate into the local workforce."

Free to love

Pride Month is celebrated in June across the US. The first Pride March in 1970 was a civil rights protest. Every year since then, people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual and their allies come together to march, sing and revel in the thriving community they have fought to build. The sentiment is simple: we will not stand for discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and everyone has the right to love whomever they want to.

The best part about Pride parades is how they manifest as just one giant celebration of love. Last year, over 450 groups took to Fifth Avenue, making it one of the largest Pride celebrations in history. This year, New York City's Pride March - scheduled to take place tomorrow - is expected to make history as the biggest ever in the city. For the first time, Major League Baseball and the National Football League will participate in the event, joining the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Women's Hockey League.

In spite of the under-representation of LGBTQ athletes, professional sports leagues have gained symbolic ground over the past few years. For example, last August, the NFL launched "NFL Pride", an LGBTQ employee resource group aimed at fostering "an inclusive environment in which all employees are welcome."

Big legacies

June 17 was the day to celebrate fathers. Rumour has it that the concept of Father's Day started when a young woman wanted to honour her father who was a war hero. While many people around the world celebrate their fathers with fun activities, others do not have that privilege. For this Father's Day, army children who have lost a parent in the line of duty wrote letters to their fathers, paying tribute to the sacrifices they made and the legacies they left behind. The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation shared these letters.

The CFPF's main goal is to provide college scholarships and educational counselling to Gold-Star children - kids who have lost parents in the armed services. But this year, the CFPF invited kids to write letters as part of a grieving project. They started the initiative when they realized that 97 per cent of service members killed in action are men, and as a result, many of the kids who benefit from the CFPF have a particularly hard time on Father's Day. Since its founding in 2002, the foundation has given close to $22 million to 1,100 students.

Rescue operation

The Donald Trump-led administration's now-withdrawn immigration policy took the country by storm. In April, the US Attorney's offices were directed to criminally prosecute all adult migrants who attempt to cross the southwest border illegally. The children were then forcibly separated from their parents.

In protest, a couple set up a fundraiser on Facebook and raised millions of dollars for an organization that provides legal services for immigrants, including parents separated from their children as a result of the policy. The initial goal was just $1,500 - the minimum bond for an immigrant held in custody. By June 19, the amount reached $4.7 million with more than 1,10,000 donations. The California couple started their campaign after seeing the viral image of a two-year-old girl crying as her mother, an asylum seeker from Honduras, was being searched and detained at the US-Mexico border.

Facebook is effective in creating awareness and driving change. The fundraiser post apparently spread organically, without any paid promotion.

FOOTNOTE

Best face forward

You can now go to the gym - for your face. FaceGym, a British company, promises to "tone, tighten, and sculpt the face," with the help of a "trainer" who will perform face exercises such as "knuckling, faceballing, high-speed hand whipping, flicking and pinching". The face workout will consist of a warm-up, cardio, sculpting and a cool-down. The world's first gym for the face is located on the second floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. There are two FaceGyms in London too.

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