9 Minnesota refugees honored for work in civic engagement, entrepreneurship

(Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project)

Nine Minnesota refugees were honored with Outstanding Refugee Awards Tuesday at a ceremony in St. Paul.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services gave out the awards to the nine of the most exceptional refugees from the 663 the state welcomed in from 22 countries last year.

Recognizing civic engagement, entrepreneurship and youth leadership, the awards went to people from Moorhead, Minneapolis, Eagan, Faribault, St. Paul, Spring Lake Park, Fridley and St. Cloud.

“These nine individuals have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service in their communities,” said Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey. “We are grateful to them for bringing their fresh ideas, customs and perspectives to Minnesota.”

Here are the nine winners in their categories:


Recognizes individuals making communities stronger through civic participation.

Abdullahi Ali, of Moorhead, workforce development case manager at Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership, for his civic work to increase voter participation and build a more welcoming community for Moorhead residents, particularly youth.

Adan Ibrahim, of Minneapolis, volunteer at Franklin Learning Center, for his commitment to helping people on their path to becoming U.S. citizens. Since 2009, he has volunteered more than 3,000 hours.

Vayong Moua, of Eagan, director of health equity advocacy at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, and chair of the DHS Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council, for his commitment to equity, multicultural unity and reduction of health disparities in Minnesota. Moua has helped change policy to support healthy foods, advocated against child hunger and promoted safe streets.

Bashir Omar, of Faribault, cultural liaison at Faribault Public Schools, for mentoring young people and developing programs that inspire future leaders in the Faribault community.

Yane Sima, of St. Paul, Medical Career Advancement program volunteer at the International Institute of Minnesota, for making a difference through her career in the medical field and volunteer service to support and tutor other nursing students.


Recognizes individuals contributing to the community in business, the arts or education.

Jamal Ali, of Spring Lake Park, volunteer at the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, for his role as a “connector” in creating innovative art and spaces to strengthen cultural awareness and understanding. Ali has helped provide a platform for cross-cultural dialogue, and made the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project a success.

Tashitaa Tufaa, of Fridley, founder and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Network, for his business entrepreneurship, celebrating a diverse, multicultural workforce with more than 300 fleet buses that transport 15,000 children from schools in the Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids school districts.


Recognizes youth for achieving great milestones and making a difference in their communities.

Mohamed Malim, of Minneapolis, founder of Dream Refugee, for his work with the nonprofit and social enterprise Epimonia. Dream Refugee's mission is to break the theme of exclusion and xenophobia by telling stories of refugees and how they make the world a better place.

Suud Olat, of St. Cloud, advocate for ONE Campaign, for his leadership in fighting extreme poverty and for mobilizing thousands of people to take action in support of girls’ education and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.