Fifty-one former refugees recently gathered to take part in an exciting three-day event focused on building skills in advocacy, community organizing, and leadership.
Participants in the World Refugee Day Academy were selected through a highly competitive process for their leadership experience, strong ties to their local communities, and their desire to mobilize for pro-refugee policies.
Coming from 27 states and representing 18 nationalities, they were a diverse and impressive group. Each person has a unique story and plays a dynamic role in supporting, leading, and connecting refugee communities.
The World Refugee Day Academy shows what you achieve through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service — and how your support does far more than just meet basic needs.
Your contributions also give former refugees a chance to grow as individuals and develop as leaders. In doing so, your gifts strengthen refugee communities across the country, advancing the cause of freedom.
During the Academy, participants not only build organizing and leadership skills, they put them into practice as they meet with Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, tell their personal stories, and urge our leaders to support critical legislation.
With your support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, you walk alongside the Academy’s participants. And you can be proud of the way each individual plays an invaluable role in our network, after overcoming hardship and rising to leadership through personal courage and perseverance.
Omar Bah, a co-facilitator of the event, is one such example.
As a young man in The Gambia, Omar spoke out against a dictatorship and advocated for his rights as a journalist. Before long there was a price on his head.
Thankfully, Omar was tipped off in time to escape with his life despite a national manhunt. After a year of hiding in Senegal and Ghana, Omar was admitted to the United States as a refugee.
He resettled, poetically enough, in a city named for its history as a refuge for those seeking asylum: Providence, RI. Seven years later, Omar has written a memoir of his experience, “Africa’s Hell on Earth,” and is working hard on behalf of his refugee community.
Your support bolsters impassioned leaders like Omar, fostering communities based not on nationality, but on shared values, common stories, and a desire to pave the way for others in dire need.
As Omar works to strengthen his community, he sees World Refugee Day Academy and other Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service programs as great opportunities.
“I spoke out against injustice and also for my rights as a journalist … it almost cost me my life, but luckily, out of all the countries in the world, the US stood out and said we care here, and gave me the opportunity to build up my life. It gave me hope when I had none, a home when I had none, and the ability to dream about new possibilities.
“LIRS is doing great work supporting refugees and immigrants like me but also lifting up and galvanizing leaders in communities and advocating for immigrant policies, and this helps all refugees from all over the world.”
Thank you for your role in supporting these leaders among their communities. We simply could not achieve this work without your commitment to walk alongside of refugees and immigrants.