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World Refugee Day celebrated early in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

World Refugee Day celebrated early in Burlington

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

World Refugee Day isn't until June 20th but the celebrations kicked off early in Burlington.

It was a long journey for Noel Mukiza to get to this game of volleyball, in this park, in Burlington. Before now he lived as a refugee and never belonged anywhere. That has changed.

 "Right now I'm a US citizen, I'm really proud to be belong to a nation, to belong to a country, and very soon I'm going to vote for my first time. That's the freedom I was talking about." said Mukiza.

He came to Vermont from Burundi in December of 2007. He is one of the many refugees celebrating United Nations World Refugee Day.

"Life is so hard in the refugee camps, so you come here you know that life is going to change towards the positive." said Mukiza.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program hosted hundreds Saturday in Burlington. From tug-of-war games, to face painting, to soccer match ups, it was a time of joy. Volunteers say it's hard to imagine everything these people have been through.

Judy Scott of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program explains, "It's very hard for those of us like me who were born in this country to understand what it would be like if your home, all of your possessions, and even family members were taken from you. If you were forced to leave and never go back."

A harsh reality that many refugees face. And one Vermont company wanted to lend a helping hand.

Stephanie Bertoni of Danform Shoes told us Saturday, "They've come so far and they had nothing when they arrived here. So what a great thing for Vermont to give back when they come to our state."

Danform Shoes Inc. donated 10-thousand dollars in footwear to fit shoes for anyone they can.

"I think most of us have so much in Vermont and so if we can give back to someone who doesn't have a lot, it's a great feeling." said Bertoni.

A great feeling recognizing people with different backgrounds and stories, as they come together to celebrate freedom.

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