Hari Koirala is a former refugee from Bhutan who came to USA back in 2008. He was brought to a refugee camp in Nepal when he was five years old and was there for 17 years before coming to Utah. He now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah and is a proud citizen of United States of America. He has completed a Bachelor in Science from Tribhuwan University, one of the esteemed public universities of Nepal. He is now a certified public manager, accredited by state of Utah. After being refugee he has been advocating for the issues faced by refugee children, youths and elders since 1998 as a children forum coordinator. When he first came Utah, he served on the Board of Directors for his community organization to continue his efforts to help refugees and immigrants relentlessly. He has been able to advocate and lobby for refugees and immigrant matters in city, state and federal levels. Currently, he works with the state of Utah, Department of Workforce Services as an employment counselor assisting refugee clients in becoming self-sufficient. His passion is advocacy.
Bhuwan Pyakurel’s journey as a refugee from Bhutan brought him to the United States in 2009 at age 30. He currently works with Primary One Health as an interpretive Service Coordinator, supporting immigrants and refugees with language in the health care setting. Bhuwan passionately works with local communities on issues surrounding education. Currently residing in Columbus, Ohio, Bhuwan’s community is predominantly low income refugees and immigrants from Somalia and Bhutan. His efforts include organizing meetings and inviting local speakers from the school district to explain the American education system to community parents. Bhuwan desires to educate more members from his community about advocacy and how they can fight for their cause.
Faith Akovi Cooper is committed to improving the lives of people globally. As a global health and humanitarian professional, she has traveled to and worked in 37 countries, primarily Africa. She is the Regional Advisor for the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative (WADPI), a US Government funded post Ebola capacity building program at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana. There she works to strengthen West Africa countries capacities in disaster preparedness. Faith was born in Liberia and forced to flee her home as a result of one of the worst brutal wars which claimed the lives of more than 600,000 people including close relatives in Liberia. She barely escaped Liberia with her family and would later become a refugee in the Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana for years before immigrating to the United States. As a result of her own personal experiences as a child survivor of war, she is dedicated to eliminating human suffering. Faith is at the forefront leading disaster preparedness training throughout Africa. She holds a dual Bachelors from Radford University in VA and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in Health Policy from George Mason University. She is a recognized […]
Falastin Hassan currently lives in Minneapolis, MN. She is a former refugee from Somalia and was resettled in the U.S. by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in 2005. Falastin has lived in several refugee camps in Kenya and is very thankful to have been resettled in the U.S. Currently working for Lutheran Social Service as the Senior Refugee Specialist, she works as the reception and placement caseworker.
Abdalhamid Musa Abdalla Ali was born in a small village in the town of Zalengei in central Darfur, Sudan. His village was destroyed in 1988 when tribal war broke out. After a reconciliation agreement, his family was able to return to the village. He continued his education – the first in his family to attend school – and graduated from the University of Khartoum with an accounting degree in 2006. Abdalhamid moved to Kenya in search of safety from the war in Darfur and joined the Sudan Radio Service as a journalist. Being a firsthand witness to the war and genocide in Darfur, Abadlhamid became a passionate human rights defender. He resettled to the U.S. in 2013 and is thankful for his welcoming community in Baltimore. He is currently working with BMS as a part-time interpreter and still awaits the interviews for his pending asylum seeker application.
Rebecca Deng is originally from South Sudan. She is a Program Development Associate with American Bible Society’s Mission Trauma Healing which do Bible-based trauma healing to Great Lakes Africa, Middle East and Americas. Her expertise is in development, education, governance, and peace and conflict mitigation. Rebecca came to the United States as a former Lost Girl of Sudan after living for eight years in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. The violence she experienced as a child during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005) has given her a deep empathy for children and young adults who face similar situations today. She was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2006. She holds a BA from Calvin College in international development, with a minor in social work, and an MA in Ministry Leadership from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In 2007 she spent a semester studying with ISDSI in Thailand, where she also volunteered in a refugee camp for Burmese. As an intern with USAID, she developed the agency’s working document for outreach to the diaspora of Sudan and South Sudan. In 2011, she led a team of sixty-five Referendum workers to administer the Out of the Country Voting Center for the South […]
Sedrick Murhula is a community development worker, refugee activist, and youth motivator from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2007, Sedrick and his family fled to Uganda as refugees. While experiencing the struggle of being a refugee at a young age (17), Sedrick founded Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), a non-profit organization dedicated to serving urban refugees in Kampala, Uganda. YARID supports refugees by providing them with the necessary tools to become contributing member contributing of society. Currently, Sedrick lives in the United States and works with humanitarian aid organizations helping refugees. He is a 2014 and 2015 alumni of the LIRS Refugee & Migrant Leadership Academy. Sedrick’s passion is to empower youth and initiate great change in the world by sharing his story. He speaks often at universities and organizations on subjects related to peace and conflict, youth and change, refugees and immigrants. He also presents information about the conflicts in Congo and the great lake region of Africa.
Selena Sujoldzic was born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe. Due to the war, which consisted of genocide and ethnic cleansing, her family resettled to the United States as refugees in 1995. From that experience she became passionate about human right laws. She attended Wichita State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She then moved onto law school at the University of Kansas School of Law. She is now working as an attorney at Feldmann Nagel, LLC in Denver, Colorado where she is part of the Family Law Team. She is also on the Board of Directors for the LIRS, an instructor at the LIRS Refugee and Migrant Leadership Academy, as well as an active advocate at the Refugee Congress.
Leela Timsina was born in Bhutan, and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. He is privileged and honored to spend his future creatively and meaningfully in the United States of America since 2010, “the land of opportunity” with utmost dignity, honor and opportunity. He is astoundingly proud to be in a nation of immigrants bound by a set of ideals: democracy, freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He is very grateful to have been resettled in America! Currently, he lives in Aurora, Colorado with his wife and two children. He also has an access to quality education and quality health care system for his kids and family. He owns a house, and has a great job at Children’s Hospital of Colorado one of the top ten hospitals in the natation. Before, he served as a Clinic Operation Manager at Metro Community Network in Denver and run local non-profit successfully. Currently, he is serving as an Immigrant and Refugee Commission Chair for the city of Aurora where he lives and volunteer in many other local and State level organization. He is also serving as an Advisory Board member of only one ESL School for Refugees and Immigrants is Denver […]
Born in exile in Gambella, Ethiopia, Nyamal Tutdeal is South Sudanese. She is an immigrant and came to the United States with her family in 1996; they were resettled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Nyamal graduated with a degree in Human Relations at Doane College in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has been a very active member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Women League as well as the SPLM Youth League, and is co-founder of the NGO Nyaeden Foundation, which provides basic survival items to women and girls in refugee camps throughout Africa. Nyamal has recently moved to Pennsylvania where she plans to continue her education at Arcadia University by pursuing a master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Nyamuoch Girwath was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia after her family was forced to flee their home in South Sudan on foot due to civil war. Her family was resettled to the United States by LIRS when she was just four years old and she grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. It was difficult for her to balance helping her family with the resettlement process while wanting to grow up as a “normal American kid.” Often she would accompany them to appointments and even taught them to read and write. She was scouted by an agent at Wilhelmina Models while working for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska through AmeriCorps, but didn’t decide to pursue a modeling career until her sophomore year in college. Four years ago she moved to New York City, where she is currently both a student, and a successful professional runway and print model. She uses this platform to talk about issues surrounding South Sudan and refugees in America. She attended LIRS’s Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy to learn more advocacy in her community. After the Academy, Nyamuoch plans to use what she has learned to better help communities “bridge the gaps” that refugees face with […]
Winner of the 2016 John F. Kiffney Public Service Award from the Providence Newspaper Guild; and recipient of ‘One of Rhode Islanders of the Year 2015’ award from Rhode Island Monthly Magazine, Omar Bah is the Founder & Executive Director of the Refugee Dream Center. He is a torture survivor, former journalist and refugee from The Gambia in West Africa. Bah is also the author of the book, Africa’s Hell on Earth: The Ordeal of an African Journalist. He represents the state of Rhode Island at the Refugee Congress of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Washington, DC; and is an alumnus of the LIRS Leadership Academy where he has also offered leadership training to fellow refugees. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a minor in political science from the University of Rhode Island; master’s degree in Public Administration from Roger Williams University, and a master’s in Counseling Psychology in Global Mental Health from William James College where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Leadership Psychology. Bah has completed trauma treatment certification at the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, and does trauma based therapy. Omar is immensely thankful to the United States […]
Seleshi Ayalew Asfaw, Executive Director of ETSS, has a Doctorate of Medicine from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. He practiced medicine and eventually served as the Executive Director of Gondar Regional Health Department through the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia before seeking asylum in Belgium in 1996, as Ethiopia was in crisis of civil war and human right violations. Eventually he immigrated to Columbus, Ohio in 1997 where he worked with Jewish Family Services and ECDI for five years directing IDA and the Microenterprise programs funded by ORR. He has helped to found a number of community-based organizations tackling public health, educational and economic development issues in Central Ohio. Currently he serves as President of the Ann Sherry Foundation, Board of Director of the African Federation, Inc (AFI), a national African advocacy organization, and was appointed by the Mayor of Columbus to serve as a board member for Primary One Health. He is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Outreach Council for the Columbus Police Department and the Future Ready Columbus Community Engagement Council.
Som Nath Subedi was born in 1981 in Bhutan. After living in a refugee camp in Nepal for almost 20 years, Som resettled to the United States in 2008 with ten dollars and a plastic bag. Since coming to the States, he has been involved as a volunteer community activist for refugees and migrants at both the local and national level. Som now works as the Coordinator of Parks for New Portlanders. In Portland, Oregon Som works closely with the international communities, in matters of policy, resettlement and integration, and creating a welcoming community for refugees and migrants. Som is passionate about bridging cultural gaps between new groups and the existing communities. As seen in the way he interacts with both community members and the media, Som is a strong advocate for presenting a positive narrative of refugees and migrants. With his personal experience as a refugee, Som is motivated by his desire to continue the legacy of giving back to the community.
Tika Ram Dhungana is a former refugee from Bhutan. He was resettled to Harrisburg, PA in 2010 and became a United States citizen in 2015. In 2014 he published the book Satisfaction and Service, a Grand Source of Success. He is the founding president of the Bhutanese Community in Harrisburg and is currently the executive director. Tika has worked as Regional Manager for Intra-National Home Care, LLC since August of 2015. Prior to that, he worked as a care giver and certified medical interpreter. When he resided in Nepal, Tika was a high school principal for about five years. He received his Master’s degree in Chemistry from Tribhuwan University in Nepal. Tika was also a participant in the LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy of 2015 and has represented LIRS on a few occasions.
A former refugee, Joseph Lewis is currently a police sergeant with the Metro Transit Police Department of Washington, D.C. He was resettled in the United States in 1999 after fleeing the Liberian civil war and is an alumnus of the LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy. Over the years, Joseph overcame many challenges as he adjusted to life in the United States. He was once homeless and slept on the streets of Washington D.C. With the support and encouragement of a Lutheran pastor, he was eventually able to attend college, and work for the success he has had. Joseph holds a Master’s degree in criminal justice, and is currently a student at the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He is married with two children. He says, “I have dedicated my life to helping other refugees because others invested in me. My courage is built on the foundation that it is in striving that we honor the sacrifices of all those who believe it is worthy to invest in us.”
Yohannes Mengsteab, born and raised in Eritrea, East Africa, came to the United States of America as a refugee in 1983 because of the Ethio-Eritrean conflict that began in 1961. He was drafted into the Eritrean Liberation Front before he left his country of origin and loved ones to begin his life in exile. However, he had a vision for a better life for himself and his extended family. He attended Concordia College Bronxville, NY and graduated with a BA in Judeo Christian Heritage and Math. He then went to Concordia Seminary St. Louis to become a pastor of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). He served as a parish pastor, urban missionary, national director of church planting for The LCMS, director of ministry programs for The Lutheran Foundation, and now one of the mission executives for The Texas district of the LCMS. He also started a distance education that leads to ordination, The Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology, to prepare refugee and immigrant leaders for ministry in The LCMS. He believes in integrating in the cultural and economic fabric of the society and a lifelong education, which is evident in his getting a PhD from Concordia Theological Seminary in […]
Rev. Michael Rinehart is Bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a community of over one hundred congregations, campus ministries, retreat centers, and other agencies. He studied music at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Valparaiso, Indiana. He received his Master of Divinity at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. He lives in Montgomery, Texas with his wife and children.
William Swanson became affiliated with LIRS in 1998 and served as treasurer for approximately seven years. He remained deeply connected to the LIRS mission and rejoined the board in 2012. After chairing the Finance and Investment Committee and serving as Secretary, he was elected to the role of Treasurer in 2015. Mr. Swanson devotes his time and expertise in investment management to LIRS out of a shared compassion for the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. He has been a personal sponsor of refugees, both officially and unofficially. Mr. Swanson’s commitment to standing for welcome is also evident in his eight years of work on the board of Ascentria Care Alliance, formerly Lutheran Social Services of New England, where he has served as chair of the Governance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. That experience, as well as leadership roles in his church, informs his service and invaluable contributions to the LIRS board.
Ted W. Goins, Jr. is President and CEO of Lutheran Services Carolinas. Prior to being named President in 2000, Mr. Goins was employed by LSC for over 10 years as administrator of Trinity Village nursing home in Hickory, N. C. He also previously served for three years in administration and development, and has spent his entire career in health and human services. Mr. Goins received his AB from Lenoir-Rhyne University, and earned his MS from Pfeiffer University. He is a certified nursing assistant and licensed nursing home administrator. Mr. Goins is active in a number of local, state, and national organizations, including serving on the North Carolina Medical Care Advisory Committee, the Board of the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association, the Board of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, and as Chair of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. He previously served on the Lutheran Services in America Board, including two years as Chair, and also served two terms on the North Carolina Study Commission on Aging. He was appointed to the North Carolina State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators and went on to serve for seven years, four of those as Chair. Mr. Goins received the Distinguished […]
Som Baral is currently living in Aurora, Colorado. He was originally from Bhutan, but was forced to leave with his family in 1991. They received asylum as refugees in Nepal. They spent almost two decades in the refugee camp in Eastern part of Nepal. In 2007, he got the opportunity to apply for third country resettlement. He was selected to come to United States. It took about a year to process his application. He came to the United States as a refugee in 2008. He was among the first Bhutanese in the State of Colorado. The Bhutanese community was very new in the State. He was advocating and helping the community at various level. He started actively helping community members by organizing meetings and gatherings to assess their needs and assist them. They were able to register a community organization in 2010. Currently he am leading as a Chairman for the Bhutanese community of Colorado which is a 501C status not for profit community organization. In his professional work he is currently working at Lutheran Family Services of Colorado, one of the leading resettlement agency in the nation. He started as a case worker and now he oversees the health […]
The Rev. Michael Wilker enjoys opening the doors of God’s love to our neighborhood and nation. Before coming to Reformation in 2011, Pastor Mike served as the president of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. He previously served bilingual congregations in New York and California. He’s a graduate of St. Olaf College and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. He grew up on a hog farm in southern Minnesota (and was the state 4-H reserve swine showman!). Now he and his family live in the church’s parsonage on Capitol Hill. When he’s not slacking off, he enjoys running marathons.
Folabi Olagbaju is LIRS Director for Outreach where he leads the organization’s external relations with Lutheran congregations, migrants and refugees engaging them on key organizational priority advocacy issues. Prior to joining LIRS, Folabi was Director of Amnesty International USA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office where he managed the regional field program work and translated AIUSA’s human rights agenda into grassroots membership organizing plan and transformative human rights victories. Prior to joining Amnesty International, was with US labor movement as a Research Organizer with the Service Employees International Union where he helped low wage workers organize Unions and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. He holds a doctorate in political science from the George Washington University.