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Can food change the way people feel about refugees?

Refugee chefs from 25 countries participated in this year's Refugee Food Festival.

Can food change the way people feel about refugees?

For 15 days in June, some of the world's greatest refugee chefs played host to more than 10,000 diners during the second annual Refugee Food Festival.

80 chefs of 25 different nationalities showcased a wide range of dishes highlighting their culture and culinary skills. The big event was an even bigger success than last year, taking stage in 84 restaurants across six European countries. During the festival, each restaurant added new dishes to their regular dining menus and worked with the chefs to create truly unique dining experiences for their guests.

The card reads: "Now more than ever we need to stand with refugees. Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility." Photo by Janou Zoet/UNHCR.


The festival wants to use the power of food to help change people's perceptions of refugees.

The Refugee Food Festival is the product of French non-governmental organization Food Sweet Food and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). Together, they hope to change public perception of refugees, help refugees integrate into the local workforce, and encourage new experiences and interests in other cultures.

"None of us decides where to get born, so it is fundamental to remember the values of welcome and integration, which are strategic values ​​to build the future of our society," said Oscar Farinetti, the founder of Eataly, one of the participating restaurant chains, in an interview with the U.N.

Somali chef Hassan Hassan meets with diners. Photo by Yorgos Kyvemitis/UNHCR.

Mission aside, however, the food just looked pretty dang good.

In Lyon, France, chef Mohammad Elkhaldy, a refugee from Syria, offered up some mouth-watering Syrian dishes.

Elkhaldy at Substrat restaurant. Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Sri Lankan chef Nitharshini Mathyalagan added a number of her home dishes to the menu at Paris' Lulu la Nantaise during the festival.

Mathyalagan in Paris. Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Ifrah Daha prepared a Somali "healthy meal" for guests at Les Filles in Belgium.

Daha with diners at Les Filles. Photo by Bea Uhart/UNHCR.

Photo by Bea Uhart/UNHCR.

Syrian chef Wesal helped revamp the brunch menu over at Madrid's Elektra.

Wesal meets with diners. Photo by Jane Mitchell/UNHCR.

Photo by Jane Mitchell/UNHCR.

And at It Restaurant in Athens, Greece, Reza Golami served up authentic Afghan cuisine.

Afghan chef Reza Golami in the kitchen of It. Photo by Yorgos Kyvernitis/UNHCR.

Afghan dish man tou. Photo by Yorgos Kyvernitis/UNHCR.

According to the UNHCR, as of June 2017, as many as 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes worldwide, with 22.5 million of them claiming refugee status. A 2016 Pew Research poll found that more than half of Americans believe that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in refugees — and that's a problem shared by a number of other countries.

The truth is that without help from welcoming countries, many refugees may never truly find a home again. To help them, it's important to tackle the public opinion problem, and events like the Refugee Food Festival are great ways to do that.

Visit the Refugee Food Festival and UNHCR websites for more information on how you can help refugees.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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