A United Nations official who works on behalf of children experiencing armed conflict met with refugees Friday at Della Lamb Community Services in Kansas City.
“If you talk to some of these children – I’ve been in some of their countries before – it’s a very, very different situation than what we have in the United States,” says Sharon Riggle of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “So I think first learning the situation and making the children and families feel heard is an important first step.”
Riggle, who is in town to speak at the 2015 United Nations Day Dinner, says providing access to education is also critical.
“It’s something that we’re focused on, the U.N. as a whole is focused on – especially this year in our 70th anniversary – and how important that is for young people both within their country in conflict situation but also in refugee situations where their lives have been turned upside down,” Riggle says. “Education can give a sense of normality.”
Safa Salah came to the United States from Somalia when she was 8 years old. Salah told Riggle she wishes English was taught in refugee camps.
“Learning the learning, a new culture, developing new experiences, meeting new people – it’s really challenging, but you have to overcome it,” Salah says.
Riggle thanked Salah for her comments and promised to take them back to her office.
The anniversary dinner Friday evening commemorates President Truman signing the U.N. charter in 1945. Riggle is the keynote speaker. Mayor Sly James and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II will attend.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter, @ellemoxley.