A brief look at Syria

Most Syrians practice Islam. The Syrian culture is very conservative and a great importance is placed on tradition. Families are typically very close, and loyalty is demonstrated among social, ethnic, and familial groups (The Cultural Atlas).

Traditional greetings among Syrians usually involve a handshake between two men, using their right hands only. It is only appropriate for a man to shake hands with a woman if she extends her right hand first. A strong handshake is not valued in Syrian culture, and gentle pressure is used during the act (The Cultural Atlas).

Check out our page on Syria for more information about the country.

A brief look at Eritrea

The country of Eritrea only recently gained its independence in 1993 after defeating Ethiopia in a thirty-year long battle for autonomy. Prior to being labeled an autonomous region of Ethiopia, Eritrea was under Italian control and then later British administrative control. After achieving independence in 1993, Isaias Afwerki was voted in as president. He has continued to rule as president since that time, making him the only president the young country has ever known (The World Factbook). For a great timeline of events in Eritrea, take a look at BBC News Eritrea Country Profile and our page on refugees from Eritrea.

The current population of Eritrea is estimated to be around six million, while the largest city, Asmara, has a population of 712,000. The geographic climate of Eritrea is very diverse. The fertile mountains provide great opportunities for agriculture, but are in direct opposition to the Red Sea coastal plain, known to be the driest place in Africa (infoplease).

Eritrean culture encompasses many of the native populations of the region. The cuisine is similar to that of other African countries in the area, and food generally consists of lots of vegetables on top of an injera. Food is typically eaten without utensils (Eritrean Cuisine).

A brief look at Iraq

By December of 2016 the first Iraqi refugee families arrived in Missoula, and currently a handful of Iraqi families have found a safe home here.

There have been over 3 million internally displaced people in Iraq, and with recent conflicts in Mosul, the number of displaced people only continues to climb (UNHCR Global Focus: Iraq).

The size of Iraq is comparable to the size of Montana, and the people who live there are commonly highly educated as higher education is free for Iraqi citizens. While many of the refugees we receive in the US are well educated professionals, their degrees often do not transfer here and they are usually initially unable to work in similar jobs as they did in their country (Refugees from Iraq).

The image of Iraq most commonly portrayed in the media is one of violence and conflict, but Iraqi culture and tradition is one of the oldest in the world and consists of tasty cuisine, competitive sports, traditional as well as modern music, and prized art and literature (Art and Culture). Common foods to be eaten in Iraq include dolma, biryani, and kebabs, and meals typically have a lot of stuffed vegetables, dates, rice and beans (Iraq Food).

Iraqi music is an important part of the country’s history and also plays a role in the culture of today’s youth. The country is known for three unique instruments: Oud, Iraqi Santur, and the Joza.

Check out our page on Iraq for more general information on the country and our new Iraqi neighbors!

Photography courtesy of the IRC

Thank you!


Thank you all so much for your generous support during our Missoula Gives campaign! We exceeded our funding goal by over $500 and it wouldn’t be possible without all of you and the hard work of our volunteers. Thank you as well to the Missoula Community Foundation for organizing the event to create a day of giving for our community’s wonderful non-profits.

A Brief Look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo

People from the DRC often speak multiple languages, the most common being Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili. French is also commonly spoken in the African country (DR Congo Country Profile). Approximately 50% of the DRC population is Roman Catholic, and while Christianity is a dominant faith in the country, it is often combined with the Kimbanguist Church which was developed by a Congolese preacher in the 1920s. On the eastern side of the DRC there is a strong presence of the Muslim faith (Our Africa).

Music and dance are of great cultural importance in the DRC, and a common style of music called soukous arose from jazz and rumba in the 1940s. Check out the video below by Hold DRC for a lesson in traditional Congolese dance!

Shaking hands with your right hand is a common way to greet someone in the DRC, and same sex people holding hands is a common way of demonstrating friendship. Food is commonly eaten using only your fingers and popular foods are ugali, beans, rice, fish and lots of vegetables (DRC Customs and Culture). Check out our page on the DRC for more information!

Livestream Recording – Eritrea: the Country, Culture, and Circumstance

We want to send out a huge thank you to everyone who joined us last night for our Soft Landing Missoula Presents! Eritrea event on March 8th, 2017! It was a busy night in Missoula and we so appreciate your joining us!

Special thanks to our fantastic sponsors UM’s African-American Studies Program, UM’s Political Science Department, and Montana Model UN, and to our two fabulous speakers: Kimberly A. Maynard, Ph.D. and Solomon M. Gofie, Ph.D. Thank you also to Missoula Community Access Television for recording the event. We will post their recording to our website soon.

In the meantime, watch the live stream recording here!

Pint Night Tonight!

Join us tonight (Wed. March 1st) at the Northside KettleHouse Brewing Company Taproom for Pint Night! They will donate $.50 from every pint sold between 5-8 p.m. to Soft Landing Missoula! Plus you’ll get the first chance at our awesome new hats, sweatshirts, and shirts! Thanks again to Social Club for the inspiring design!

Check out the Facebook event for more information and to RSVP for tonight!

If you are a current Soft Landing Volunteer, you could win one of our fabulous brand new t-shirts! Stop by our information table tonight and enter your name into a drawing to win! See you there!


March 8th – Eritrea: the Country, Culture, and Circumstance

We are excited to bring you our third lecture in the Soft Landing Missoula Presents series! We will present “Eritrea: the Country, Culture, and Circumstance” on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Theater, located on the 3rd floor of the University Center on the University of Montana (UM) campus.

Sponsored by UM’s African-American Studies Program, UM’s Political Science Department, and Montana Model UN, this presentation will feature two distinguished speakers: Kimberly A. Maynard, Ph.D. and Solomon M. Gofie, Ph.D., (see bios below) and will be followed by a Q&A period. These two amazing speakers will talk about everything from location, demographics and geography, to why people are leaving Eritrea and how. They will also discuss how can we do a great job at welcoming our new neighbors by knowing a little bit more about their culture and customs! We are really excited for this one!

Please RSVP to our Facebook event page! And, as a helpful tip, we recommend arriving to the University Center Theater (third floor) early as we have filled the space to capacity in past lectures.

Download the poster for the event – PDF.

Dr. Maynard’s journey has taken her from smoke jumping in Missoula to work in natural disasters and, ultimately, war zones. Her fieldwork includes 30 years as a practitioner in crisis management, conflict recovery, and peacebuilding. During 20 of these years, she worked in the Horn of Africa’s war-torn regions. She began by providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons and then went on to study the drivers behind forced migration and the means to transition from crisis to peace and renewal. Dr. Maynard holds a doctorate in International Affairs and has worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, the Red Cross, World Bank, and non-governmental organizations in conflict zones around the world. Dr. Maynard is currently UM’s Mansfield Fellow in International Affairs and works part time with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives.

Dr. Gofie is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. His areas of research include state, society and human rights, migration and transnational involvement in the Horn of Africa, conflict resolution, citizenship and political communities in the Horn of Africa; he has recently published scholarly articles and book chapters on these topics. Dr. Gofie is currently a visiting adjunct faculty at UM’s Department of Political Science, teaching courses on human rights and politics in Africa.

Refugee Resettlement

The second lecture in our series took place on November 1st, 2016, from 6pm to 8pm in Urey Lecture Hall at the University of Montana Campus. Molly Short Carr from the International Rescue Committee and Mary Poole from Soft Landing Missoula spoke regarding the refugee resettlement process and how it pertains to Missoula. A personal experience was shared by Wilmot J. Collins, a Helena resident and former refugee from Liberia. The event was graciously sponsored by the University of Montana School of Journalism, and moderated by the Dean of the School of Journalism, Larry Abramson.

Missoula Community Access Television was present during the lecture, and a video copy of the event will be available through SLM. MCAT’s video is available on our website (below) as well as their website and will officially air on December 28, 2016 at 9pm. SLM successfully broadcasted the event in a trial run on facebook live, and intend to do so for future Soft Landing Missoula Presents lectures as well, with the hope of improving the quality of the video feed each time.