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Thanksgiving dinner welcomes newcomers to homes in WNY Comparison made to the Pilgrims

Hiba Adeeb has never had Thanksgiving turkey, but she described it as tasting like chicken -- "but more delicious."

Her 12-year-old sister, Manar, was "very excited" about her first Thanksgiving dinner. She never had tasted most of the trimmings before.

Eighteen-year-old Lihie Ahmed Mohamed from Somali said he liked the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, but also has developed a taste for pizza, chicken and french fries since moving to Western New York earlier this year.

Mohamed, his parents, three sisters and two brothers had spent years in a Kenyan refugee settlement before moving to the United States.

"I like everything," answered Mohamed when asked to name his favorite dish from the Thanksgiving meal.

Adeeb, her sister and Mohamed were among about 100 refugees, mostly families, who have arrived in Buffalo within the past three months.

They were welcomed to Western New York with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served Sunday in the International Institute, which organized the event with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Western New York.

"We are like Pilgrims," said Adeeb, a 23-year-old college student who had studied mathematics in her native Iraq before coming to Western New York about three months ago.

She arrived here with her parents, sister and two brothers.

"It's wonderful sharing with people," Adeeb's mother, Fahima, said of her first Thanksgiving experience.

The dinner was a very appropriate way of welcoming "new friends" to the United States in the same manner American Indians welcomed Pilgrim settlers for the first Thanksgiving in 1621, said John Rex, spokesman for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

"They've been threatened. They've been separated from their families. They've been torn from their homes," added Rex, who had served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and Namibia. "This is their first time in America, and the stories these people have to tell, the things they've been through make this so special."

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Western New York is an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association, an organization seeking to promote a better understanding of other cultures and nationalities and to provide an opportunity for former Peace Corps volunteers to work together and to contribute to the community as a resource, Rex explained.

"We're able to be a bridge," said Pam Kefi, executive director of the International Institute. Kefi met her husband while serving with the Peace Corps in Tunisia.

"This is a great collaboration," she said.


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