World Refugee Day 2024: A Celebration of Community and Belonging!

On June 16th, 2024, Soft Landing Missoula hosted our favorite annual event- a celebration of World Refugee Day. For Soft Landing, this celebration is a way for us to say “Thank you” to the incredible community of refugees and immigrants that we get to work along-side each day. It is a way to show our gratitude and express our love for our new neighbors. We do this the ole’ fashioned way- though sport, amazing food, music and dancing, and of course gathering in conversation around shared tables. Each year, this joyous party has grown in size and festiveness as the refugee and immigrant community in Missoula has grown and it was a blast to celebrate with around 450 people this year!

With more players than we have ever had, the day kicked off with a friendly 7 vs 7 round-robin style soccer tournament that set the tone for the festivities. The teams are made up of whoever shows up and become a mix of nationalities, ages, skill, and friends new and old. It is wonderful to witness folks from all over the globe work together on the field- often for the first time and through multiple languages- emerge from the experience laughing, clasping hands, and asking when the next time they can play together will be. Congratulations to the champion Blue Team who proudly showed off their medals during dinner, mingling with the rest of the party-goers.

United We Eat” once again proved to be a culinary delight, offering an array of delicious and beautiful dishes prepared by talented refugee chefs and our kitchen staff. Their hard work and passion were evident in every bite, and attendees raved about the flavors and aromas that filled the air. It is no small feat to feed 450 people and every dish was a testament to the rich culinary traditions our refugee community brings to Missoula. And yes, we had lots of yummy treats and ice cream as well (Thanks Big Dipper!).

Adding to the festive spirit, Djebe Bara Community Dance and Drum brought together the crowd in their energetic live performance. Their rhythms and melodies, stemming from West African dance traditions, are driven by an infectious beat that had everyone swaying and dancing along. Djebe Bara has played each year we have hosted this party and is always a highlight of the evening that gets everyone up and moving- even with really full bellies! With both live and recorded music playing through the evening, we love watching folks across many cultural backgrounds dancing along together and sharing their own versions of dance, regardless of the origins of the music.

Along with the main activities, our youth team knocked it out of the park with fun experiences for the kids and adults alike! The balloon artist and face painting were once again a big hit and who doesn’t love giggling kiddos with bubbles and a little sidewalk chalk art?! It was also lovely to be joined again by representatives from the City of Missoula, interacting with folks at the event and sharing the many ways that our city is involved in and committed to welcoming refugees and immigrants.

It, of course, takes more than just our Soft Landing staff to pull off an event of this size. We are so full of gratitude for all of the volunteers that helped with every aspect of this celebration- on the soccer field, in the kitchen and food line, at the welcome table, helping set-up, helping clean-up, and on and on… While this event isn’t advertised or fully open to the public due to the size, we love being able to invite volunteers to share this day with us and see the huge impact they have. Special thanks as well to our sponsors: Clearwater Credit Union, Good Food Store, Jiffy Lube, and other generous supporters from the Missoula community. 

As we reflect on World Refugee Day 2024, we extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone and every family who joined us. This event not only acknowledges the many contributions of refugees and immigrants, but also reminds us of the strength and beauty that diversity brings to our lives. From the warm smiles at the welcome booth to the engaging activities and lively conversations, it was clear that this day was about more than just a celebration—it was about building connections and fostering a sense of belonging.

World Refugee Day at the Fort Missoula Pavillion