#WorldRefugeeDay: Refugees are Community Leaders

By Mary Elizabeth Margolis, Senior Director of Communications, Church World Service

We often hear about the unbelievable challenges refugees face in their journeys to find safety. Refugees fleeing violence and persecution risk everything for the hope of safety and a bright future for their children. Once they escape immediate danger, rather than open arms they often find closed doors, exponential new challenges and a long difficult journey to rebuild their lives.

Photo: Mustafa Nuur, 27, stands outside of his family’s food stand in Lancaster City, Pa. – Cardiff Garcia /NPR

On World Refugee Day we celebrate the resiliency and strength of refugees. They are inspiring for their harrowing journeys–yes–but even more so for the ways that they overwhelmingly give back to the communities that welcome them.

Across the United States, Church World Service’s refugee clients have become advocates and community leaders. Refugees like Mustafa Nuur in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who started his own small business to provide cross- cultural experiences for the Lancaster community and newly arrived refugees. During the coronavirus pandemic, Nuur and his team at Bridge have been providing groceries to struggling families in the community. Or Jackie Kifuko, a former refugee in Columbus, Ohio who is now a refugee community organizer training refugees on civic engagement and helping other new Americans learn how to vote. 

In Egypt, which hosts a huge number of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, accessing basic needs like education and healthcare can be insurmountable challenges. Yet at the CWS-supported organization in Cairo refugees like Abadir are leading innovative new programs to help new arrivals navigate the challenges of daily life. Their community outreach programs, working with leaders and organizations within refugee communities reach tens of thousands of refugees each year with education, medical, legal, counseling and housing programs. 

This World Refugee Day you can support refugees by celebrating the ways they build up the communities that welcome them. Share their stories, join a community-led virtual World Refugee Day event, support refugee-owned businesses, donate to support refugee leadership development,  and tell your elected leaders why protecting and welcoming refugees is important to you.