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Celebrating World Refugee Day, Akron-style

Several cultures call the Akron area home, finding strength in their differences and shared experiences.

AKRON, Ohio — The Himelright Lodge at Cascade Valley Metropark in Akron was transformed into a melting pot of cultures. The sounds of those cultures echoed through the Summer air. 

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From the Ka'Ren of Bhutan to Afghani, Congolese, they're all here sharing the title "refugee", and sharing their collective strength. One former refugee to call Akron home is Neema Bal. 

"I was born and raised in the refugee camps," said Bal, an actor and playwright. His play, "Three Countries, One Mother" is about his family's journey, fleeing Bhutan to escape ethnic cleansing. 

So many cultures. But why Akron? Liv Randall from the International Institute of Akron explains, "They come here because it's affordable and they can make it home and there's already communities here that can support them."

In addition to The International Institute, Akron has resources like International Welcome Center and Immigration Network Akron and more. Katie Beck from IA-Akron, a recent player to the immigrant support system here, explains what they do. "We're a community connection of service and program providers who want to see all immigrants and former refugees thrive." 

Different cultures, different in so many ways, but connected by the courage to start anew. 

Neema says learning about other refugees makes them all stronger, "Finding out the story with them, how closely our experience are even though we are totally from different side of the World." 

His three-act play debuts July 22 at Akron's Balch Street Theater.

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