For World Refugee Day 2014, LIRS brought together 52 former refugee leaders from 29 states, representing 16 countries of origin, for our World Refugee Day Academy. Since the conclusion of the training, these leaders have further developed into a powerful and inspiring cohort of leaders in their respective communities, promoting pro-refugee environments and advocating boldly on issues of importance to their communities. Today, we bring you a sample of activities that some of these courageous leaders are engaged around since their training in June.
Since relocating to Charlotte, NC from Philadelphia, PA, Fesseha, a former refugee from Ethiopia, has moved quickly to build connections with his new community. An active member in the Ethiopian community and leader of his church, Fesseha is implementing a plan to organize and mobilize the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in North Carolina to increase their successful integration within North Carolina. Fesseha participated in The Linking Communities Project (TLC) in North Carolina. TLC provides funding to local groups to support innovative initiatives that highlight the benefits of refugee resettlement to local communities and promote better understanding. Fesseha is looking forward to deepening his working relationship with LIRS and area Lutheran Churches.
Sedrick Murhula Ntwali
Sedrick is a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the founder of Young African Refugees for Integral Development, an NGO that aims to “empower refugees, orphans and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) around Africa to overcome the burdens of deprivation and vulnerability to become healthy, educated, self-sustaining and contributing members of society.” Sedrick has also made a documentary about urban refugees in Uganda and is planning to make another documentary about American perceptions of refugees and how this affects their integration into the United States.
Bhuwan recently relocated from Denver, CO to Columbus, OH. He is implementing a grassroots action plan to work with the Bhutanese community and leaders from different refugee communities to better assess the needs of the entire refugee population in Columbus. Bhuwan left a very remarkable impression on resettlement agencies that he worked with, including Colorado Refugee Services and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, and an indelible impact on the refugee community in Denver. There, he organized an Advocacy Training Day Academy. Thirty former refugees attended to learn how to be more effective leaders on advocacy issues. He also organized an in-district delegation to Rep. Diana DeGette (D) and Mike Coffman (R) with more than 200 signature petitions asking Congress to fund refugee services and the support compassionate treatment of the migrant children from Central America.
Som’s tireless efforts and transformative campaign to draw attention to the challenges of integration and the high incidence of suicide among his Bhutanese community in Portland, OR has been well documented in the media. Most recently, in a major story in the LA Times. Som works as a volunteer responder for suicide prevention within his community with little or no resources. A case manager at Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Som employs creative strategies, such as a soccer tournament, to bring refugees of diverse cultures and nationality and the receiving community together.
Selena has been a very active voice for refugees since participating in World Refugee Day Academy in 2014. She has written two blog posts for LIRS, and a moving preface to LIRS’s new publication, First Steps, a resource guide for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants released from detention. Selena also led migrants and refugee workshops at LIRS’s national conference, and helped run the migrants and refugee closing plenary break out session. Selena currently practices law in Wichita, Kansas. She intends to pursue her life’s goal to work in human rights and refugee law.
Kuoth, a former refugee from South Sudan and actress, has been really busy since she attended the World Refugee Day Academy in June. She recently starred in a major Hollywood movie, The Good Lie, where she portrayed a character that reflects her own experience as a lost girl of Sudan. Between spending her time with the movie production and promotion, Kuoth worked with LIRS on a grassroots action plan to engage Sudanese refugee youth, identify their needs, and work with them to be of more help and support for their parents. She also wants to educate her community to be aware of the broad range of services that can help them succeed and thrive in their new community.
We are honored to walk alongside these leaders, and look forward to continue collaborating with them!