Staff with the Omaha Public Power District recently participated in Omaha, Nebraska’s World Refugee Day event.
The event included performances, sports tournaments, a health fair and a community resource fair. Attendees also had the opportunity to explore and support local refugee-owned businesses.
OPPD staff who participated in the event are members of the public power utility’s Global Connections group. This was the first year that OPPD Global Connections participated as a sponsor for the Omaha World Refugee Day event.
Established on January 8, 2020, as an employee resource group, OPPD Global Connections “is a testament to a strong collaboration and dedication of globally talented employees coming together to help build a greater OPPD workforce by welcoming all immigrants, refugees and interested employees to connect with and educate one another through our diverse skills, expertise and cultural values resulting in opportunities for better career pathways and professional growth,” said Rose McKelvey, founder and past president of Global Connections.
According to the Immigration Research Initiative, more than 145,000 immigrants and refugees live in Nebraska. They account for 9% of the labor force and 8% of state earnings. The analysis was based on five-year census data and includes people born in another country and living in the U.S., no matter their legal status. Nebraska ranks No. 1 in the nation for the share of refugees resettled over the past decade compared to the overall state population, according to an analysis by the Immigration Research Initiative.
“Our personal stories and workplace experiences are told in many languages around the world: Chinese, Tagalog, Bikolano, Japanese, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Arabic, Ukrainian, Russian, Urdu, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Thai, Vietnamese, English, German, Spanish, Tajiki, Punjabi, French and more,” said Lili Solksy, current president of Global Connections.
“Our vision is a commitment to promote, support and advance a workforce that embraces inclusive diversity through respectful interactions. It is a vision grounded in our shared experiences and desire for a better future,” said Liz Sawhney, chair of the Human Rights Preservation Committee for the Global Connections group.
Members of the Global Connections group attending the event took the opportunity to establish partnerships with local non-profit and voluntary agencies in support of Omaha’s immigrant and refugee population. They also brought greater awareness to OPPD's Energy Assistance Program, which provides utility bill assistance to help cover the emergency energy needs of households located within the OPPD service territory.
In 2021, at the height of the need to volunteer and support the Afghan refugees and community, Global Connections partnered with OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP), as well as the local area non-profits such as Lutheran Family Services (LFS) and Refugee Empowerment Center (REC), said Solksy.
“Accordingly, OPPD’s EAP followed up with both LFS and REC, and has since partnered with them on their client intake process to streamline work and aid new refugees in Omaha,” she said.
“This year’s World Refugee Day Omaha event gave Global Connections members and volunteers an opportunity to follow up and build upon the community relationships by promoting OPPD’s EAP in support of the new refugees and households in Omaha," Solsky said.
Sawhney has long been an advocate of providing much-needed support and services to the immigrant and refugee population in the Omaha community. Sawhney’s previous experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, at Lutheran Family Services in Omaha, was instrumental in continuing to build new partnerships with other non-profit and voluntary agencies present at the Omaha World Refugee Day, OPPD noted.