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Minnesota honors refugees for their contributions

Outstanding Refugee Awards announced for 2022 and 2023

Minnesota celebrates the courage, resilience and entrepreneurship of refugees, who make the state a better place to live.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Outstanding Refugee Awards for 2022 and 2023 will go to 10 individuals. The department will honor the award winners during a Tuesday, Oct. 24, ceremony at the Minnesota History Center.

“Refugees who come to the United States to make a good life for themselves and their families have known great hardship and great hope,” said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “It gives me great joy to recognize the achievements of refugees who have done so much to make Minnesota a better place.”

People with refugee status leave their home countries because their governments are unable or unwilling to protect them when their lives are in danger from persecution because of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinions. Many come to Minnesota to start new lives and make significant contributions. In 2022, Minnesota welcomed 584 individuals from 17 countries through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

The Outstanding Refugee Awards include four categories: Civic Leadership, Entrepreneurship, New Arrival and Young Leader. Award recipients are listed below.

The Civic Leadership Award recognizes individuals who make their communities stronger through civic participation:

• Dr. Tsewang Ngodup, a family medicine specialist affiliated with Hennepin Healthcare-Minneapolis. His family fled Tibet and lived in India before coming to the United States. He lives in Bloomington.

• Safi Khalif, executive director at Youth Innovation Empowerment Leadership Development (YIELD). He came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia and lives in Minneapolis.

• Ahmad Shah, coordinator for community connections with the Minnesota Council of Churches and founder and president of the Afghan Community of Minnesota. He and his family fled Afghanistan when he was 7 years old and lived in refugee camps in Pakistan for years before resettling in Minnesota in 2015. He lives in Brooklyn Park.

The Entrepreneurship Award uplifts individuals who contribute to their communities in business, the arts or education:

• Sacad Guled, president and chief executive officer of Coherent Bus Company. He came to the United States from Somalia and now lives in Fridley.

• Elham Ibrahim, founder and chief executive officer of Universal Accounting Services. She immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. She lives in Bloomington.

• Hsakushee Zan, a bilingual educator lead with St. Paul Public Schools’ Office of Multilingual Learning. She came to the United States from Thailand after fleeing Myanmar and makes her home in St. Paul.

The New Arrival Award honors individuals who have been in the United States for two years or fewer, and exemplify the resilience and courage to rebuild their well-being and make Minnesota their home:

• Hanifullah Rasooli, who arrived in the United States in October 2021 under Operation Allies Welcome from Afghanistan. He assisted staff and other newcomers by tapping into his experience as a former tailor, helping fix donated sewing machines and teaching newcomers how to use them. He now lives in St. Paul.

• Iryna Petrus, a refugee from Ukraine who arrived in the United States last year and now lives in Shakopee. Petrus is the community outreach manager for the Ukrainian American Community Center.

• Ramesh Hashemy, a refugee from Afghanistan who worked with the United States government as a subject matter expert, translator and interpreter. He lives in Minneapolis.

The Young Leader Award recognizes young people who have achieved significant milestones or are making a difference in their community:

• Talo Heh, who is originally from Thailand. Born and raised in a refugee camp, she came to the United States at age 5. Heh, who lives in St. Paul, is a community health educator at Neighborhood HealthSource.

Nominations for the 2024 Outstanding Refugee Awards are expected to open later this year.

For more information:

• Visit the DHS website to learn about Minnesota’s resettlement programs (PDF).

• To learn more about award recipients, visit https://mn.gov/dhs/outstanding-refugees/.

 

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