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Vimala's event benefits refugees from Burma

Transplanting Traditions Community Farm wants to make the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area feel like home to refugees from Burma.

On Sunday, a fundraiser at Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe will help raise money for Transplanting Traditions — an organization that helps refugees overcome educational barriers and acquire agricultural skills appropriate for North Carolina’s climate.

The farm, located off Jones Ferry Road in Chapel Hill, is an educational farm that trains refugees from the Karen ethnic group in Burma. They also hold workshops geared toward teaching farmers how to begin and sustain their own farm.

There are approximately 800 to 1,000 direct arrival immigrants from Burma living in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, said Susan Clifford, immigrant and refugee health program manager for the Orange County Health Department.

Karen people represent a portion of that population.

Transplanting Traditions serves 26 households, or about 140 adults and children in the area.

“Our goal really is to help families start their own farms,” said Kelly Owensby, program coordinator for Transplanting Traditions.

But in order to accomplish that goal, the organization will need more funding, she said.

Transplanting Traditions received a $77,000 grant in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better serve the needs of the Karen community.

But the funding from the grant will run out in September 2013.

Owensby said the organization needs at least $77,000 more to keep its programs running. This funding will come primarily from grants and philanthropic donors in the community.

Sunday’s event was originally scheduled for Oct. 28, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.

Owensby said the organization has sold about 100 tickets for the fundraiser so far.

But Vimala Rajendran, owner of Vimala’s, predicts a bigger turnout.

“I’m expecting two to three hundred people,” she said.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the event.

The event will feature live Karen folk music, dances and traditional Karen food, as well as a presentation on Karen culture and the refugee experience.

Rajendran said she is happy to help.

She purchases the farm’s vegetables and has hosted people from the Karen community for dinner.

“I identify with Transplanting Traditions,” she said.

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