Celebrating the strengths and achievements of refugees, the Minnesota Department of Human Services on Tuesday honored nine people who came to the United States as refugees and have since made significant contributions to Minnesota.
The 2019 Outstanding Refugee Awards, presented by Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey at a ceremony in St. Paul, recognize refugees for making the state a better place. In 2018, Minnesota welcomed 663 refugees from 22 countries. Refugees come to the United States from all over the world to start over and build a new life after fleeing their home countries, often with little or nothing.
“These nine individuals have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service in their communities,” Lourey said. “We are grateful to them for bringing their fresh ideas, customs and perspectives to Minnesota.”
The awards recognize civic engagement, entrepreneurship and youth leadership. Below are the award recipients, listed by type of award.
The Civic Engagement Award recognizes individuals making communities stronger through civic participation:
- Abdullahi Ali, of Moorhead, workforce development case manager at Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership, for his civic work to increase voter participation and build a more welcoming community for Moorhead residents, particularly youth.
- Adan Ibrahim, of Minneapolis, volunteer at Franklin Learning Center, for his commitment to helping people on their path to becoming U.S. citizens. Since 2009, he has volunteered more than 3,000 hours.
- Vayong Moua, of Eagan, director of health equity advocacy at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, and chair of the DHS Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council, for his commitment to equity, multicultural unity and reduction of health disparities in Minnesota. Moua has helped change policy to support healthy foods, advocated against child hunger and promoted safe streets.
- Bashir Omar, of Faribault, cultural liaison at Faribault Public Schools, for mentoring young people and developing programs that inspire future leaders in the Faribault community.
- Yane Sima, of St. Paul, Medical Career Advancement program volunteer at the International Institute of Minnesota, for making a difference through her career in the medical field and volunteer service to support and tutor other nursing students.
The Entrepreneurship Award recognizes individuals contributing to the community in business, the arts or education:
- Jamal Ali, of Spring Lake Park, volunteer at the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, for his role as a “connector” in creating innovative art and spaces to strengthen cultural awareness and understanding. Ali has helped provide a platform for cross-cultural dialogue, and made the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project a success.
- Tashitaa Tufaa, of Fridley, founder and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Network, for his business entrepreneurship, celebrating a diverse, multicultural workforce with more than 300 fleet buses that transport 15,000 children from schools in the Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids school districts.
The Young Leader Award recognizes youth for achieving great milestones and making a difference in their communities:
- Mohamed Malim, of Minneapolis, founder of Dream Refugee, for his work with the nonprofit and social enterprise Epimonia. Dream Refugee's mission is to break the theme of exclusion and xenophobia by telling stories of refugees and how they make the world a better place.
- Suud Olat, of St. Cloud, advocate for ONE Campaign, for his leadership in fighting extreme poverty and for mobilizing thousands of people to take action in support of girls’ education and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
The federally funded Resettlement Programs Office at DHS supports the effective resettlement of refugees in Minnesota by providing the resources and stable foundation they need to rebuild their lives, achieve their highest potential and contribute to the state. It provides federally funded services for up to five years after refugees’ arrivals through community-based organizations that include employment services, social services, student support, health screenings and medical assistance. It also provides the public with education and information about refugees.
“Resettlement and community-based agencies play an important role in helping refugees resettle into a new country,” Lourey said. “We appreciate their hard work in helping people rebuild their lives. As our partners, they are vital to making Minnesota a more welcoming state to people from all over the world.”
For more information, check out the DHS fact sheet
on refugee resettlement.