City Club of Boise Virtual Conversation: The Refugee Experience in Idaho
Providing refuge to people fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion is an integral part of America's framework. Idaho has welcomed refugees to the fabric of our community since the 1970s. There are over 26 million people who have been granted refugee status around the world; almost half are children under 18. Only 1% of these families and individuals will be resettled into a third country.
While the resettlement effort in the Boise area initially focused on refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, it soon expanded in scope to include Eastern European refugees fleeing oppressive regimes of the Soviet era. Over the years, the refugee groups resettling in Idaho have changed and become remarkably diverse. Boise and Twin Falls' resettlement cities have been seen as particularly welcoming, safe spaces for families as they rebuild their lives. In 2019, in response to an executive order, our state overwhelmingly opted into refugee resettlement.
In 2020 Idaho ranked among the top five states in employment outcomes for newly resettled refugees. Our business community, schools, churches, and neighbors continue to benefit from New Americans in our community. Over the years, our community members who arrived as refugees have helped weave the fabric of our towns: they are our doctors, our farmers, our factory workers, our business owners, and our teachers, and Idaho would not be what it is today without them.
We’ll be joined by three Idahoans who arrived here as refugees: Maya Duratovic, Nawid Mousa, and Zeze Rwasama. This conversation will be moderated by City Club of Boise board president Kâren Sander.
This Virtual Conversation will be on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
About the Panel:
Maya Duratovic holds a Master’s degree in Business and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from Boise State University. Currently, Maya works at Boise State University as the Department Manager for English. In her free time, she volunteers with non-profit organizations that promote cultural understanding and citizen diplomacy. Having lived through the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and arriving to the United States as a refugee, she feels passionate about creating world peace and harmony amongst community members. She is in her second year of gardening and is happy to get any of your gardening tips and tricks.
Nawid Mousa moved to Boise in June 2008 from Moscow, Russia as refugee along with his mother and three siblings. – he is originally from Afghanistan. Shortly after he started college at the College of Western Idaho (CWI) and in 2011 transferred to Boise State University (BSU). He graduated from BSU in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. All three of his siblings also attended BSU and graduated with professional degrees and are currently working in the private sector.
Nawid previously worked for local structural engineering firms. He worked on dam rehabilitation, bridge design, and various other projects in both private and public sectors. Nawid also worked for the U.S. Department of Navy as a Naval Architect/Structural Engineer in Bremerton, WA. Nawid currently works at HDR as Transmission Line EIT. Nawid speaks 5 languages.
Nawid considers himself-- and his family-- one of the luckiest people to have come to the USA as a refugee, being able to obtain higher education degrees, and contribute back to the economy. He considers contributing back to the Boise community his duty. He volunteers at the Idaho Office for Refugees and Genesis Community Health, as well as a few professional societies.
Nawid loves spending time with his toddler son, Amir. In his free time, he plays cricket and soccer, and also enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, running, and road biking.
Zeze Rwasama is married and has four children, ages 13, 10, 7 and 4. He is the current Director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs since 2014, and one of the 2016 recipients of the Idaho Hometown Hero Medal which pays tribute to those who show unique characteristics and achievements while displaying remarkable commitment to creating better and safer communities across the state of Idaho.
Zeze’s childhood dream of becoming an engineer in electronics was halted and shifted to helping the less advantaged refugees some years ago. His interest and involvement in helping refugees started when he became a refugee in 1995.
Zeze has years of professional experience of working with refugees in and out of the United States. Before and after receiving his associate of science degree in Computer Science, bachelor of science degree in Social Work, and master degree in Public Administration, he has played multiple key roles in refugee integration and self-sufficiency as a direct service provider, trainer, and administer of programs.
Zeze has held numerous leadership positions locally serving on Board of Directors member of non-profit organizations including the Unity Alliance of Southern Idaho, Culture for Change and the Valley House Homeless Shelter.
Kâren Sander is board president for City Club of Boise. Originally from South Africa, Kâren immigrated to Idaho in 1988. She has had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this community for 33 years, and has served in a variety of roles in her career in Idaho including as Executive Director of the Downtown Boise Association from 2004 – 2015 and is currently the Idaho Area Business Development Leader for HDR Engineering.
Many thanks to this program's sponsor Republic Services.