In three years, Soft Landing Missoula has helped settle more than 300 refugees in the Garden City. In the coming week, a series of events will enable Missoulians to meet them, sample their food, and learn about their cultures.
The events started on Friday, Sept. 13, and are scheduled through Sunday, Sept. 22, Soft Landing Missoula is hosting its third annual “Welcoming Week,” in partnership with other local businesses and nonprofits. Mary Poole, Soft Landing’s executive director, said that during the past three years, “the week has grown, so that’s going to be wonderful.”
It launched Friday evening with a kickoff party at Imagine Nation Brewing. Subsequent nights’ events include a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony; a “Congo vs. the World” soccer match; a pop-up Middle Eastern dessert sale; and Venezuelan dance lessons at Missoula International School.
The latter two events are both new this year, Pool said. "I think we’ve been able to add new communities participating in it each year. This year we’re really excited with the addition of Venezuelans who live in Missoula.”
The festivities will conclude the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, with a Together Missoula rally in Caras Park. Entry to all of the events is free, although some have a suggested donation that Poole said will go directly to the participating families.
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Welcoming Week isn’t just a chance for Missoula residents to learn the merengue or cheer on soccer players from around the world. Poole said it also helps some of the city’s newest residents, recently displaced by war and other strife, to integrate into their new hometown — and show their gratitude.
“I think the largest benefit that we’ve heard (is that) everyone is just really excited to be able to have the opportunity to share their culture … and be able to connect in that way with their Missoula neighbors.
“They feel like this is their opportunity to give back,” she said.
Visit https://softlandingmissoula.org/celebrate/#welcoming-week-anchor for a list of all events, their times and locations.