In recognition of World Refugee Day on June 20, and true to its commitment to reach at-risk and refugee populations in the regions where it broadcasts, the Voice of America featured a variety of original programming spotlighting issues related to displaced persons. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that there are now more than 100 million forcibly displaced persons around the world, including 32 million refugees. VOA works hard to document and tell the stories of these individuals.
VOA’s News Center featured a number of unique pieces centered on the refugee experience, including a special project, “Refugees Shape America,” that illustrates the stories of notable figures who had to flee hardship in their homelands in hopes of a better life in the U.S.
The Africa Division highlighted the experiences of former South Sudanese refugees and their stories of success after resettling abroad and released four new translations of VOA’s award-winning 2021 documentary, “A Day in the Life of Refugees.” In addition, President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Eskinder Negash, took part in the TV program “Africa 54,” for a special interview about the lives of refugees in the United States.
VOA’s Spanish service, broadcasting to Latin America, aired a new documentary, ”Wings of Hope,” which tells the story of an Argentine actor and airline pilot who flies to Poland to help Ukrainians escaping the ongoing war in their country.
The South and Central Asia Division featured the story of an LGBTQ+ refugee and the hardships of living his life openly in Gaziantep, Turkey. The division also contribued to the new VOA documentary, “Dreaming in Exile” that tells the story of 18-year-old Afghan refugee, Rustam Khair Khwa, who, like many teens, dreams of being a professional soccer player. However, for Rustam and his family – living as refugees in India after fleeing Kabul, Afghanistan – each day is a challenge. With his mom as the sole parent at home, and four kids to care for with little support, Rustam must figure out how to balance helping at home and pursuing his dreams.
“VOA’s audiences have always included the information-deprived, whether they are being marginalized by authorities or simply living in a market where there is little financial incentive for other broadcasters to take notice,” explained VOA Refugee Program Manager Gary Butterworth. “But, VOA takes notice. We are proud of our unique ability to reach where other news organizations cannot. Today, that often means refugee camps and other places where displaced persons congregate.”
Some of Voice of America’s journalists are former refugees, asylees, and other displaced persons. They include John Tanza, managing editor of VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus” program and Jackson Mvunganyi, host of VOA’s “Up Front” and “Red Carpet.” These individuals know first-hand how vital VOA’s reporting can be for any displaced individual.
Despite the many ways VOA recognized World Refugee Day on June 20, it works very hard year-round to bring news and information to these communities and to tell their stories to the world.