The Yale Refugee Project hosted its first Halloween party for refugees Saturday evening.
The party, held in Dwight Hall from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., introduced New Haven refugees to each other, Yale students involved in YRP and American holidays and traditions, YRP Vice President Anna Lee ’17 said. The costumed party attendants, ranging from teens to senior citizens, danced to music provided by the organizers and the refugees who attended. In between enjoying the photo shoot and face-painting stand, the party attendees were able to better understand how Americans celebrate cultural holidays.
“Some refugees are new here,” said Wurood Nahmood, a leader in New Haven’s refugee community who helped plan the event. “We wanted to show them how [Yale students] enjoy their weekends.”
This year’s party was the first time the event was planned in coordination with the refugee community.
While YRP members brought traditionally American snacks, such as cupcakes and chips, the refugees in attendance brought holiday foods from their home countries, such as hummus and baklava.
This year also marked the first time the city’s refugee Halloween celebration was hosted by Yale, as opposed to New Haven’s refugee resettlement agency the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
“This year we decided to have YRP play a bigger part in [planning the Halloween party],” Lee said, adding that the push for the event to be hosted on campus reflects the YRP’s growing role in planning the annual Halloween party.
Currently, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are the main events YRP hosts for refugees. Lee said the group hopes Halloween will become their third annual event.
In addition to planning events and advocating for refugees’ interests in the city, YRP pairs Yale students with refugees to strengthen the relationship between the refugee community and Yale. These partnerships are coordinated by Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a refugee resettlement program run by the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
“We’re hopefully setting a precedent for each Halloween event growing larger and larger, and including more and more refugees,” Lee said.
Lee explained that often, refugees are curious about Halloween and what it entails. She said the event enabled people to find out more about how Halloween is celebrated while having fun and meeting new people.
Ali Abdul-Jabbar, a Syrian refugee who came to the United States after spending time in Iraq and attended Saturday’s event, said the Halloween event was enjoyable for him, his brother and his grandfather, who also attended. He said he has been involved with YRP for the past two years.
Laurel McCormack, the volunteer coordinator and acculturation programs coordinator for IRIS, said the event aimed to introduce refugees to the New Haven community and its traditions in a safe, welcoming manner. For many, she said, Saturday’s party was their first Halloween celebration.
“My goal whenever we plan an event for refugees is to open up the beautiful things of New Haven to them a little bit, and expose them to Yale’s beautiful facilities and resources that they might not have seen before,” she said. “We want to create a fun and relaxing environment where reciprocal hospitality and friendship can be shared.”
IRIS resettles roughly 200 refugees in New Haven each year.