Celebrating World Refugee Day
Posted on June 17, 2021
Each year, SNHU celebrates World Refugee Day, an international event organized by the United Nations to celebrate refugees and displaced people, to raise awareness of their perseverance, and to recognize how we can all help protect their human rights.
For the SNHU community and for me, this day is deeply personal. SNHU launched the Global Education Movement (GEM) in 2017. One of the most ambitious initiatives to bring full degree programs to displaced people, GEM partners with in-country organizations to deliver high-quality, low-cost education tailored to meet the needs of displaced learners.
Today, there are more than 80 million displaced people worldwide but only 3% have access to higher education. GEM is working to change that. Four years ago, GEM started with one site in Rwanda and has since expanded to five countries with 10 sites and more than 3,500 students and alumni. I’ve personally been lucky enough to travel to our sites in Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi, and Lebanon and was deeply moved by the experience of meeting our incredible GEM students and their communities.
This year, as part of our World Refugee Day activities, I hosted a roundtable event with SNHU’s Global Education Movement (GEM) students from around the world who shared their personal experiences navigating higher education as refugee learners and the impact they’re making in their communities. These are remarkable human beings who inspire me and all who meet them. They are a reminder that talent abounds in the world, but opportunity is often deprived and inequitably distributed.
I’m excited to introduce the GEM panelists who took part in the roundtable, below:
Mohamed Mohamud: Mohamed was only nine months old when his family fled Somalia during the civil war. Since then, refugee camps have been the only home he has ever known. While he finished secondary school in Kenya’s Kakuma camp, finding meaningful employment and a path to political autonomy was nearly impossible without access to higher education. After Mohamed’s mom passed away, he felt a weight of responsibility shift to him to strengthen his skills to make a difference in his community, particularly helping refugees rebuild their home countries. He decided to apply to GEM and was one of a few dozen students to be accepted into the initiative’s first bachelor’s program. Today, Mohamud is a proud SNHU GEM graduate with a BA degree. For him, earning a university degree not only signals the possibility of a brighter future for himself and his community, but also for his young daughter and future generations to come.
Nour Maaz: In 2014, Nour Maaz, 21, and her family were forced to flee Aleppo, Syria for Lebanon because of civil war and larger regional conflict. Through a community-based program, Nour completed her secondary school degree only to learn that her credentials would not be recognized by any Lebanese or Syrian universities. She had almost given up on pursuing her degree before she heard about SNHU’s Global Education Movement (GEM) through one of our community-based program partners. Thrilled to find a potential path forward, Nour enrolled in 2018 and is now working toward her BA degree in Healthcare Management. In addition to her online studies, she has also gained important work experience through her internships at a local hospital and for a San Francisco-based startup.
Saida Aden: Saida is a graduate of the online Regis University Liberal Studies program with a concentration in Social Work. She has recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Business Management through SNHU GEM. Saida previously worked with ASC-Africa, Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Office for Migration, Oxford University, and UNHCR. She has also done voluntary work with African Entrepreneur Collective (ACE) Kenya as a Training Support Associate. Saida is very passionate about women’s education and has a future dream of eradicating illiteracy. She also believes that aim is the key to increasing values to the lives of women, families, and their communities as a whole.
Noria Dusabireme: Noria Dusabireme is a recent graduate from SNHU GEM from their partner in Rwanda, Kepler Kigali. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Business. She is currently working for Siriforce whose aim is to provide better opportunities for refugees all around the world. Noria is passionate about giving back to her community. She has been a leader in her college community, where she went from cohort representative to Student Guild. She is currently the team lead at Siriforce, where a small team works to deliver quality work on a Silicon Valley level. Noria wants to pursue her education and earn a master’s degree. She is interested in community development and social progress. In addition to her work, she loves art, poetry, and music.
The roundtable took place on Thursday, June 17. Watch the recording: