A Valentine from Georgia to Refugees

Georgia loves refugees, and refugees love Georgia. This Valentine’s Day, New American Pathways, through our work with the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), held a press conference to prove just that.

Hosted by the CRSA and held at the Clarkston Community Center, the first ever “Georgia Loves Refugees” press conference featured four former refugees speaking alongside CRSA Chair Frances McBrayer of Catholic Charities Atlanta. The panel discussed the many ways refugees have contributed to Georgia and how Georgia’s communities have helped these individuals find success.

In addition to Frances, panel members included New American Pathways parent educator Beena Dahal, who spoke about her experience as a first-time voter last November. Beena encouraged her fellow new Americans to take an active part in their democracy through not only voting, put also paying attention to their elected leaders.

Dr. Heval Kelli, cardiology fellow at Emory, spoke about the important role new Americans play in the medical field and his role, as a former Syrian refugee resettled in 2001, in helping New American Pathways to welcome newly arrived Syrian families. Dr. Kelli’s story is especially powerful, as he now works in a hospital across the street from the very restaurant where he was once a dishwasher. He hopes his story of success will continue to inspire refugees to reach for their goals.

Kareem Ahmed, regional director of R. James Properties and an Iraqi refugee, spoke about the many benefits refugee tenants bring to the apartment complexes where they live. “Occupancy is up; crime is down,” he says of his communities where refugees live.

A graduate of New American Pathways’ Young Women’s Leadership program and Clarkston High School, Meh Sod Paw received a Gates Millennium Scholarship for college. Although she arrived in the U.S. with no ability to speak English, she is now attending Agnes Scott College with a goal to one day open a school in her home country of Burma.

The event also featured Clarkston Vice Mayor Dean Moore officially proclaiming February 14 as “Clarkston Loves Refugees” Day, sending an emotional valentine to the city’s many new American community members. Coffee for the event was provided by Refuge Coffee, which provides employment and skills training for refugees. Cookies were also provided by Sweet, Sweet Syria, a soon-to-be-established cookie company started by recently arrived Syrian refugees.

Each of the speakers offers a prime example of why Georgia loves refugees – and why refugees love Georgia right back.

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