“Show your welcome”: Richmond’s Multicultural Festival was June 8! 

Richmond’s Multicultural Festival: Imagine 2024 took place on Saturday, June 8. The annual event was cohosted by Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement and ReEstablish Richmond. Each year, it celebrates both National Immigrant Heritage Month and World Refugee Day 

“The Multicultural Festival is always an opportunity for newcomers and long-term residents to gather together in the same place to exchange information and culture,” says Kate Ayers, Executive Director of ReEstablish Richmond. In some cases, it is a newcomer’s first introduction to essential services in the community, including our local health departments and healthcare safety net services.” 

RHHD Community Health Worker Senior Elham Khairi says that the Multicultural Festival is one of the biggest events her team attends every year. Community Health Workers (CHWs) build relationships with residents to help with resource navigation and referrals, and they are always looking for opportunities to connect with new people. Elham staffed RHHD’s information table along with fellow CHW Maria Maldonado.  

The festival is especially important to Maria, who was volunteering there even before joining the CHW team. At the festival and beyond, Maria lives a life of community service and outreach. She worked in community organizing in Los Angeles before coming to Virginia. Here, she’s done important community outreach work through her church, as a radio program host for Radio Poder, and in her time on the janitorial staff for the Virginia State Police. Elham says that she hired Maria because she has the qualities of a true CHW: “A great community health worker is the person who is already a community health worker even without the title. They’re a trusted person who already connects and serves in the community, and they’re at the frontline of any issue that comes up.”  

Maria’s past experience with community health work and the Multicultural Festival made this year’s event a success!  


There were great, multilingual resources and support for newcomers.  

Organizations providing health information, legal services, community networking, and other kinds of support set up information tables for the first half of the day. Maria brought information about RHHD clinics, staying cool during extreme summer heat, and car seat classes. She also showed people how to schedule appointments for childhood vaccines or find primary care at places like CrossOver Healthcare Ministry. 

Maria works with many people who have busy work schedules or limited transportation. Some need healthcare support in a language other than English. As someone who arrived in the United States from El Salvador when she was 15, she knows that, for newcomers, these barriers can make it hard to find, schedule, and keep health appointments. Working through these barriers is her favorite part of her job: “I love seeing people get involved in their health and get connected to healthcare.” 

For Maria, healthcare includes important vaccinations for children and mental health resources, which she says are especially important for people navigating a big transition from life in one country to another. “Sometimes, people think these things will cost a lot of money, but there are programs that can help people for free,” Maria says. “I tell people what to bring so that clinics can evaluate your economic status and go forward from there.” 


The festival let us all learn from each other and create more welcoming communities.  

One thing Maria notices is that people don’t always understand the differences between immigrant, migrant, parolee, refugee, and asylum-seeking populations, who enter the United States in different ways and have to work through different policies and requirements once they arrive. “Even as part of an immigrant community, I get confused with the different words, too!” she says. “It’s important to know that people arrive in different ways but that they are all here. We need more shared information.”  

Elham says her team is intentional about partnering with events that create healing and wellness through community connections—the festival’s focus on multiculturalism does just that: “The goal is to break isolation and to change the narrative, especially negative narratives about immigrants and migrants. When we meet and get know each other, then we can create connection, change narratives, and create space for peaceful co-existence.” Elham also notes that the name is more inclusive of other cultures, including indigenous communities and Black populations in the U.S. Learn about other traditions, foods, and communities in this fun and inclusive way is “care in action,” she says.  


It was fun!  

“If you don’t have a budget to travel this summer, this was a way to visit the many, many, many providers from multiple countries and take a trip around the world!” Elham says. She and Maria met new people, said hello to some pets, danced to good music, and tried lots of delicious food.  


The festival was just the start. 

Elham and Maria hope that the event is only the beginning of meaningful relationships between CHWs, festival residents, and our broader communities. Here are some ways to stay connected:  

  • RHHD runs a newcomer clinic for people going through the resettlement process. 
  • If you want to volunteer and support newcomers learning English, navigating transportation, or working toward employment opportunities, Maria and Elham recommend ReEstablish Richmond as a place to start.  
  • If your organization hosts events and would like a RHHD team member to attend with health information, please fill out this request form!   

Our team is already counting down the days to next year’s festival—hope to see you there!