Refugee Resettlement Project
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Director of Refugee Programs,
Sophie Albert has a broad range of experience managing domestic refugee resettlement programs. She has spent the majority of her career working with immigrant communities to empower and educate refugees resettling in the United States.
Health and Social Services Program Manager, The Alliance
Aisha Koroma and her family came to the United States 20 years ago as refugees and were resettled by the Alliance. Now, Aisha works with the Alliance as a mental health and social service professional. She uses her skills and experience working with marginalized populations in hopes to pay it forward.
Plan It Forward
Liz Vallete served as an officer in the U.S. army for 6 years. Her experience in Iraq and Afghanistan gave her insight to the plight of refugees and the underlying causes of their forced migration. Now, she advocates for continuing America’s tradition of welcoming refugees.
Materanya “Pierre” Ruchinagiza
Farmer, Plan It Forward
Pierre Ruchinagiza is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After fleeing the DRC and spending time in several cities across Africa, he and his wife were granted resettlement to the U.S., arriving in Houston in 2017. Now, he works as a savvy jack-of-all-trades farmer with Plant It Forward. He loves farming because it encapsulates his life’s experiences.
Dr. Steve Bezner
Houston Northwest Church
Steve Bezner has been the Senior Pastor of Houston Northwest Church since 2013. He believes that assisting and resettling refugees aligns with the Bible and his faith, and that Texas can do better.
Director, Marketing & Communications, Interfaith Ministries
Sucre Woodley is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Interfaith Ministries in Houston. She spends time working in Greater Houston’s Refugee Services department, helping refugees from around the world make new lives in Houston. Sucre believes Houston is a great place for refugees to resettle, as they’re able to maintain their cultural identity while starting a new life in such a diverse city.
Women’s Empowerment Liaison, Interfaith Ministries
Chloe Krane works with Interfaith Ministries as the Women’s Empowerment Liaison. She helps resettle refugee women in Houston, working to make sure that they are self sufficient and independent. She recognizes the circumstantial misfortune that refugees endure and wants to make their transition as seamless as possible.
Cook / Refugee,
Wafdia Ibrahim and her daughter host Syrian cooking classes in Houston as a part of Interfaith Ministries’ Refugee Resettlement Services. She’s been teaching Houston residents about traditional Syrian food since 2017. Wafida is one of the many women Interfaith Ministries has assisted in becoming financially independent.
Refugees find opportunities and support in Houston
By Isobella Harkrider
In our micro-documentary, Reform Austin discusses the empowerment and wellbeing of refugees in Texas with their advocates.
Last year, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13888, allowing state governments the ability to choose whether they will continue refugee settlements or withdraw from the federal program. Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott became the first governor in the country to withdraw his state from the federal refugee settlement program.
Last year, Texas received 2,300 refugees, which is about the same number of people who move to Houston every week, said Dr. Steve Bezner, senior pastor at Houston Northwest Church.
“If we can find a way to accept that many people in Houston per week, we can definitely allocate the resources to accept that many refugees into the state every year,” Bezner said.
Aisha Koroma, health and social services program manager at The Alliance, a nonprofit that assists refugees, and a former refugee herself said the hardest part is getting people to understand what refugees are.
“We hear the word, but we don’t put a face to it. A lot of things that we see and hear is that refugees come to take away from us. They actually contribute,” Koroma said.
Plant It Forward, a Houston based nonprofit organization, has a mission to empower refugees to develop sustainable farming businesses. Reform Austin shares a glimpse of their day while working with refugees, who bring their impressive farming backgrounds to Texas.
Along with others who discuss community and empathy, Chloe Krane, the women’s empowerment liaison at Interfaith Ministries in Houston, offers a perspective for people born in the United States.
“The happy, lucky circumstances of your birth means you weren’t born in a war zone or horrific situation that meant you had to flee.”
Abbott’s decision to issue a veto on refugee resettlement is cause for concern to Texans who feel this will have a significant economic impact as well as the potential to tarnish the state’s reputation as a welcoming beacon of hope for those escaping persecution and war.
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