Oballa Oballa inspired new state legislation. Amran Abukar writes powerful books for kids and adults. Farhiya Iman talks to her community.
The three are among 10 refugees recognized Friday by the Minnesota Department of Human Services for their contributions. The Outstanding Refugee Award program is in its fourth year.
Last year, Minnesota welcomed 891 refugees from 13 countries.
Recognized from the east metro were:
Dr. Obsa Abdulla Hassan
Hassan, of Spring Lake Park, works at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and provides free medical services within his community through multiple programs. He is also the founder of the Axis Family Clinic in Northeast Minneapolis. He came to the U.S. as an Oromo refugee.
Josiah-Isaac, of Maplewood, works for the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a master’s of social work degree in 2018 and became a licensed social worker. She was the first Karen immigrant from Myanmar (Burma) to do each of those things in Minnesota.
Thao, of Cottage Grove, is the founder of True Thao Counseling, which provides tailored bilingual and bicultural mental health services. Thao and his brother also restored the historic Cedarhurst Mansion in Cottage Grove. Thao came to the U.S. as a Hmong refugee.
Mo, of St. Paul, is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. While she attended Como Park Senior High, Mo fixed computers to give to families in need, volunteered on community service projects and tutored younger students. Mo came to the U.S. as a Karenni refugee.
Other’s recognized include:
- Hani Haybe of Minneapolis, who started a free soccer program, Street Soccer Twin Cities, for disadvantaged children in the Twin Cities.
- Farhiya Iman, of St. Cloud, who regularly leads discussions in central Minnesota between members of the community through Unite Cloud, a group of central Minnesota community organizers.
- Rufo Jiro, of Shakopee, who founded the nonprofit Anole Sisters that supports Oromo women financially and emotionally through crises.
- Amran Abukar, of Willmar, who has written a children’s book and a historical fiction book that describes the struggles Somali immigrants have and continue to go through.
- Oballa Oballa, of Austin, who has served in many leadership roles in Austin and Riverland College, where he attends school. He helped open his school’s first food pantry and inspired state legislation on food security.
- Bugondo (Blaise) Ntibonera, of Minneapolis, as a refugee resettlement caseworker at Lutheran Social Services, who helps with services like housing assistance, school enrollment, medical care and budgeting.
The annual ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The state agency plans to hold an event for this year’s recipients next year.