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.
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.”
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.