From June 16-18, LSG staff member and former refugee Nur Abdi traveled to Washington, D.C. to participant in the 2015 Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). The Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy is a three-day leadership training and advocacy event for current and former refugees. Participants come from all over the country to build their advocacy skills and to visit legislators on Capitol Hill. Below, Nur reflects on his experience........
Describe your experience at the Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy. Which parts were most powerful for you and why?
Nur: My trip to Baltimore and DC to participate in this year's Migrant and Leadership Academy reminded me of the passion that was always within me to fight for refugee and immigrant rights. It built my confidence in telling my story and it showed me how much impact and difference I can make by sharing my experience. I started building a network of people that share those experiences and had the opportunity to speak to government representatives who have the power to make the changes for which we are fighting. The Academy also provided me with tools to take back to my community and to apply my advocacy efforts on the local level.
What did you learn about advocacy and refugees during the Academy?
Nur: During my advocacy, I simply told my story. I told how I was resettled in Clarkston, Georgia, through Lutheran Services of Georgia. How I immediately began using my language skills to interpret for other refugees and LSG staff during cultural orientation and the Match Grant program. How with the help of LSG staff I found my first job at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport within my first two months in the U.S. I told them how I was on food stamps and other benefits within a short period of time and how I have never been on food stamps since. I told my experience as a refugee and how it inspired me to seek out opportunities to continue serving refugee populations and how I recently became a Reception and Placement Case Manager at LSG. I shared with them that 80% of refugees resettled in Georgia are able to find work and become financially self-sufficient within 180 days after their arrival. I told them that refugees are an asset to this beautiful country.
How do you hope to use what you learned in D.C. to support your work with refugees in Georgia?
Nur: Clarkston, a small city northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, is the home of many refugees. Approximately 2,ooo refugees are resettled in Clarkston each year. As a member of the community and also R&P Case Manager I have a great connection with community leaders and we all have one common goal: to build welcoming communities by serving, empowering, and advocating for refugees and migrants. Being part of the Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy, I have learned to expand my scope by advocating for refugees and migrants at a higher level.
LSG is excited to welcome Nur back and to see how he uses his advocacy skills to support refugees throughout Georgia.