Buffalo’s history is marked by waves of immigrants from places, such as, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Hungary and Ukraine, and more recently, from Burma, Somalia, Bhutan and Iraq. Many come as immigrants seeking opportunities. Others come as refugees escaping persecution and violence.

Today, Buffalo is still the home of immigrants– and a growing number of refugees. Refugees are changing the face of our community and are a key part of why our population is growing again after a 60 year decline. More than 16,000 refugees have settled in Western New York since 2002.

To share this story, WNED | WBFO is producing Making Buffalo Home, a two-year long in-depth digital engagement initiative, to inform and raise awareness of this topic for our entire community. The project aims to help the region develop a better understanding of the shared opportunities and challenges we face together as long-time residents and new immigrants and refugees.

Through this project, we’ll meet some of the newest members of our community through their words, experiences and ideas. We’ll then engage the wider community to have a voice and share their personal perspectives on what it means to live in this country.

The hub for Making Buffalo Home content is this interactive website. Here you’ll find a series of digital-first videos, details on community conversations and Facebook Live events. We’ll highlight food traditions and cultural celebrations, showcase WBFO stories on the subject and explore the larger impact on our community. We’ll also be producing television specials and have an ongoing social media presence.

Together we’ll explore the rich diversity of people who are Making Buffalo Home!

Making Buffalo Home is funded by Rich Products Corporation and Rich Family Foundation.

The Welcome Wall, 751 Fillmore Ave. Buffalo, NY
Grant Street Global Voices Mural
Sign at Taste of Diversity Festival
Making Buffalo Home at Taste of Diversity, Myanmar Water Festival and World Refugee Day celebrations!

As part of WNED|WBFO's Making Buffalo Home, we were LIVE on Facebook recently for three different events celebrating the immigrant and refugee communities in Buffalo!


WNED | WBFO’s Making Buffalo Home was proud to be in attendance at three different summer events on the city’s West Side to help celebrate the rich, cultural diversity of Buffalo.

The Taste of Diversity is an annual festival that takes place in the heart of Buffalo’s west side. It features food, dance, and live music representative of the many ethnic and cultural communities that live in the community. What started as a neighborhood church potluck years ago, the festival is a grassroots effort and continues to be managed by members of the community.

We went live on Facebook and talked with organizer Janine Petri about the origins of the festival and how it’s grown over time. We also spent time with one of the vendors, who shared her own story of coming to America from Columbia twenty years ago. Finally, we interviewed Captain Diego Bedoya who runs the local Salvation Army (located right in the middle of the festival) about the needs the community has, as well as the contributions they are making in the neighborhood.

Just one block down from the Taste of Diversity, the Burmese community puts on an annual event in celebration of their New Year, The Burmese or Myanmar Water Festival. We caught up with the exuberant organizers who gave us insights to the festival. It’s traditionally held over a three day period in April in Burma, which was renamed Myanmar in 1989. In Buffalo, April isn’t the best month in which to host an outdoor water festival so the local Burmese community moved it to the end of June.

This celebration features more delicious food, music, and dancing – plus water, and a lot of it. The streets fill with people of all ages, cleansing themselves in both laughter and in water via hoses, squirt guns and buckets – symbolizing the cleansing your body, mind, and spirit as you welcome in the New Year.

WNED | WBFO proudly participated in Buffalo's 10th Annual World Refugee Day Celebration in LaSalle Park. Throughout the day we spoke with committee organizers and attendees. If you’ve never attended, the free event is filled with food, games, art, performances, and a little healthy competition in the form of an international soccer tournament! It’s all meant to celebrate the different refugee communities that call Western New York home.

Watch Our Videos
Making Buffalo Home

Myanmar Water Festival

The organizers of the Myanmar Water Festival discuss how they bring Burma to Buffalo and invite the community to celebrate their culture.

Originally broadcast live on Facebook in June 2019 as part of WNED | WBFO’s Making Buffalo Home project.

Making Buffalo Home is funded by Rich Products Corporation and Rich Family Foundation.

Making Buffalo Home
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Myanmar Water Festival
Making Buffalo Home
Myanmar Water Festival
Taste of Diversity Festival
Making Buffalo Home
Taste of Diversity Festival
Creating Communities at World Refugee Day
Making Buffalo Home
Creating Communities at World Refugee Day
Taste of Diversity - Supporting the West Side
Making Buffalo Home
Taste of Diversity - Supporting the West Side
World Refugee Day - Breaking Barriers in Buffalo
Making Buffalo Home
World Refugee Day - Breaking Barriers in Buffalo
World Refugee Day - Educating our Community
Making Buffalo Home
World Refugee Day - Educating our Community


Learn more about these and other cultural celebrations happening in our region on Making Buffalo Home's Cultural Celebrations calendar.

EXPLORE
What does it mean to be an Immigrant/Refugee/Asylum Seeker?

An immigrant is someone who chooses to come to a foreign country to live permanently. If someone comes to a country without the proper documentation/permission they are referred to as undocumented/illegal immigrants.

A refugee is someone who has fled their country because if they returned they would face serious harm. This person has a documented or "well-founded" fear. Often, they have already been granted asylum as well, although they did not apply as would an actual "asylum seeker."

An asylum seeker is someone who comes to a foreign country who has applied for asylum (protection) due to the fear that if they return to or stay in their home country they will be persecuted or killed. They have to prove that their claim is true, and that they are indeed facing harm if they return.

What makes refugees stand out among immigrants?

Immigrants come to America for lots of different reasons. All refugees have come because it's not safe to stay in their home countries and they were invited to resettle in America.

Immigrants have many different residency statuses. All refugees are legal, fully-documented, permanent residents.

Immigrants have varying degrees of work authorization. All refugees are authorized to work and pay taxes.

All refugees are immigrants. Not all immigrants are refugees.

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylee?
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylee?

The distinction between a refugee and an asylee is that refugees apply for entry to the U.S. from abroad, and asylees are already in the U.S., legally or illegally, when the application is made. The distinction generally requires that refugees apply for protection from outside their home country, though in some instances the U.S. accepts applications from people while still in their homeland.


Immigration's Impact on U.S. Jobs | from Morning Edition
WATCH
WNED-TV Digital-first Video

Making Buffalo Home | Karen Wrist Tying Ceremony

As part of our Making Buffalo Home project, we visited the Karen Wrist Tying Ceremony. Each year Buffalo's Karen community gathers together to preserve this tradition. This event falls in August (Lah Ku) . This ancient practice of wrist tying is to bring the spirits of all the Karen people together who have been physically scattered all over the globe for different reasons. Some of these reasons

Making Buffalo Home
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Making Buffalo Home | Karen Wrist Tying Ceremony
WNED | WBFO
Making Buffalo Home | Karen Wrist Tying Ceremony
Beautiful Buffalo | Muhammad Zaman
WNED | WBFO
Beautiful Buffalo | Muhammad Zaman
Mise Eire Irish Mural
Making Buffalo Home
Mise Eire Irish Mural
Community Filmmaker | Sara Ali
Making Buffalo Home
Community Filmmaker | Sara Ali
Juweria Dahir | Making Buffalo Home
Making Buffalo Home
Juweria Dahir | Making Buffalo Home
Community Filmmaker | Lisa Khoury
Making Buffalo Home
Community Filmmaker | Lisa Khoury
Flavors From Home | Kielbasa From Poland
Making Buffalo Home
Flavors From Home | Kielbasa From Poland
Community Filmmaker | Tom Gadelrab
Making Buffalo Home
Community Filmmaker | Tom Gadelrab
Buffalo | City of New Good Neighbors
WNED | WBFO
Buffalo | City of New Good Neighbors
From PBS NewsHour
PBS NewsHour

New cuisines, more construction: How refugees rebuild cities

5:28
Published:

Bringing new cuisines, building structures, refugees rebuild American cities. Throughout the country, refugees have rebuilt and revitalized many small cities and towns that are facing slowing economies and declining populations like Buffalo's.

Featured Video
PBS NewsHour

How giving people a transaction identity changes lives

3:29
Published:

Hamse Warfa's Brief but Spectacular take on creating economic identities for everyone.

What does it mean to be a refugee? | TED-Ed Video

About 60 million people around the globe have been forced to leave their homes to escape war, violence and persecution. The majority have become Internally Displaced Persons, meaning they fled their homes but are still in their own countries. Others, referred to as refugees, sought shelter outside their own country. But what does that term really mean? Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman explain.

FRONTLINE

Exodus

1:54:47
Published:
Rating: NR

The first-person stories of refugees and migrants fleeing war and persecution for Europe.

LISTEN | EXPLORE
Morning Edition

Joel Rose The topic of immigration is polarizing. Morning Edition's Joel Rose explored a new collection of essays called — The Good Immigrant — 26 writers reflect on America.

Featured Podcast

Muzamil's Day | PBS FRONTLINE and Firelight Media
In this special episode for kids, FRONTLINE follows a day in the life of Muzamil, a 12-year-old Somali boy growing up in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp. Producer Bianca Giaever and Reporter Roopa Gogineni bring him questions from American kids about what it’s like growing up in a refugee camp. Are there dentists? A fire department? What is your dreamland? Muzamil takes us through his daily life, answering questions from American kids along the way.

The Capital Pressroom

The Capital Pressroom took a snapshot of the issues facing new immigrants and refugees in upstate New York. From how national policy is changing America’s place in the world, to the economic revitalization being pioneered by refugees in Syracuse, we explored how new Americans are creating communities; overcoming challenges and bridging the cultural divide with a panel of experts. What immigration looks like right here, right now.

The panel of experts include:

Sarah F. Rogerson, Associate Professor of Law at Albany Law School and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic;

Abdul Saboor, Match Grant Coordinator at Interfaith Works CNY/Center for New Americans;

Stephen Yale-Loehr, Professor of Immigration Practice at Cornell Law School, and Co-director of the Cornell Law School Asylum Clinic;

Haji Adan, Executive Director of RISE: Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment

All Things Considered
SHARE YOUR STORY

Making Buffalo Home is collecting stories of people in our community who have come to America an set roots in Western New York—whether your great grandfather was the first to arrive 100 years ago, or you just began the Buffalo chapter of your story 100 days ago. We want to hear your story too!

We invite you to share a personal photograph or video and write a short narrative to add to our Making Buffalo Home mosaic.


Making Buffalo Home is a two-year, in-depth WNED | WBFO engagement initiative to inform and raise awareness of immigration for our entire community. The project aims to help the region develop a better understanding of the shared opportunities and challenges we face together as long-time residents and new immigrants and refugees.

Making Buffalo Home is funded by Rich Products Corporation and Rich Family Foundation.