Participants celebrate American dream at World Refugee Day festival

Posted at 9:45 PM, Jun 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-05 05:17:53-04

SALT LAKE CITY - World Refugee Day is celebrated throughout the month of June in Utah, and, to kick it off, hundreds gathered in Liberty Park to participate in the World Refugee Day festival.

This festival is about more than the food and the fun, this festival is a celebration of freedom.

"I am known as one of the lost boys of the southern Sudan," said James Ayuen, a refugee.

Ayuen is no stranger to tragedy. After being displaced by civil war in Sudan, he was brought to America and worked his way to becoming a citizen.

"We have a purpose in this world, and that's a purpose that we have to make the world better, so seeing a lot of stuff as a lost boy, I am more motivated now to change the world," Ayuen said.

Ayuen is a husband and a father who holds two bachelors degrees and is working on his masters.  He is one of many refugees leaving a legacy for the future.  Utah is home to more than 60,000 refugees from nearly 20 countries.  And now, 10 more refugees finally, and officially, have a place to call home.

"Definitely like this is one of the, we've had so many bad and good times, this is one of the best times in our life," said Suada Ceric, one of Utah's newest American citizens.

"Today is my big day! My big day! I'm American citizen," said Zltko Ceric, another one of Utah's newest American citizens and husband of Suada.

Crowds gathered to celebrate the American dream and to celebrate the beauty of the culture from which they come.

"How much I love the country where I'm from, and then that much also I love this country, and give it to my kids and my grandchild opportunity for their life and their education, for everything people dream about," Suada said.

Asha Parekh, a Refugee Services office director, said events like these are powerful.

"Meeting refugees and hearing their stories, it really changes your life, because they are... have experienced such awful things, and yet they come with hope and energy and perseverance to really start over and be good citizens," Parekh said.

It’s the efforts of everyone around him that make Ayuen want to be sure it’s not lost on him.

"People who do stuff like this day, that coordinate and that promote the UN and some other organizations that are beneficial to poor people like me when I was in Sudan, so I'm real excited and I appreciate all the people working on this," Ayuen said.

If you missed the event, you don't have to wait until next year to get involved. There are lots of ways to help and be inspired by this community.

Click the links below for details.

World Refugee Day from Utah Department of Workforce Services

Utah Refugee Center

You can also send an email to