Standing Together - Celebrating the Success of Local Refugees


“I always say it is not a lack of love that keeps families from being successful; it is not understanding the new system they find themselves in.” -  Laura, Tiyya’s Program Manager


As 2017 comes to an end, Tiyya’s community showed that we are stronger when we stand together. The families we serve, the volunteers who make Tiyya’s programs special, our board members and community advisers, along with various Friends of Tiyya attended our Holiday Party to celebrate the successes of local refugees!  This blog is a brief summary of the experience for those who could not join us that evening.   


Presentations by:  Jasmine Afshar, Laura Leslie, Tiyya’s refugee chefs, Amir Ben Vig, Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, Rawah Alatemsh,  Brandi Kilmer, Shukry Cattan, and Rabbi Sarah Bassin


We heard from Jasmine, Tiyya’s Development Coordinator, who reminded us through a story of her experience volunteering in the refugee camps in Greece, that we’ll never know when we’ll be the ones to ask for help. She encouraged the room to not let newly arrived families feel like the “unwelcomed other” but rather, provide the community support they need to feel like they belong.


At the dinner table, we shared a delicious international foods hand-crafted by Tiyya’s refugee chefs. Handullah Almiqdad, one of Tiyya’s adult program participants, was a successful restaurant owner and chef in Syria. Because of the war, his hard work was put on hold. In 2016, he and his family,were resettled in Orange County.  Not knowing what to do, a neighbor referred his family to Tiyya and the Almiqdads have actively participating in our programs ever since. We were honored to hire Handullah and other chefs enrolled in our programs to share their history and culture through their food.


Dinner was accompanied by a live musical performance by Amir Ben Vig. As a child, Amir grew up in a mixed Afghan-American household and was surrounded by a community of refugees from Afghanistan. He is now a PhD student of Mathematics at UC Irvine and attributes his success to the values and discipline instilled in him early on by his refugee relatives. Amir uses his music, a fusion of jazz and traditional Afghan rhythms, as an avenue to express his identity


Following Amir’s performance, Meymuna, our Co-Founder and Executive Director, emphasized that our goal of creating a community of inclusion and hope during these political times.

“Tiyya seeks to break the cycle of despair by providing newly resettled families the tools to obtain self-sufficiency and community integration while creating a sustainable community of support - not because we can end wars and stop hunger this moment but because we all have felt lonely before.  Because you love your family as much I love mine -- being part of Tiyya does not require the same stories of displacement. Your family does not have to be new immigrants. It requires wanting for your neighbor what you would want for yourself -- the simple need of safety and belonging.”


She concluded by announcing Tiyya’s Maria Esther Leslie Award of Triumph. In honor of Maria, Laura’s late mother, this award will be granted to Tiyya’s program participants who have the courage to ask for help and then take the time to help those after them.

Shukry, one of Tiyya’s Board Members, gave a passionate introduction of our keynote Speaker, Rabbi Sarah Bassin. As a Palestinian immigrant, Shukry spoke to the inspirational bond he has been able to build with Rabbi Sarah Bassin and The Temple Emanuel. Through this partnership, our friends at Temple Emanuel have volunteered their time as volunteers at Tiyya’s Back to School Celebration in August, collected over 50,000 diapers for the babies enrolled in Tiyya’s Diaper Program, and will be providing the space for Tiyya to launch a second office in LA -  helping us get established in LA County to reach a whole new population of refugees and asylees. Rabbi Sarah Bassin motivated the audience during her inspirational keynote speech to be on the right side of history when she stated:

“We are fighting for the soul of our country right now – and which narrative will define us as a nation.  I thank God for organizations like Tiyya that counter the sentiments of hate with acts of love.”


Closing out the evening, Rawah, an Iraqi refugee who arrived in the US in August 2016, and Brandi, her Tiyya Family Mentor, gave a powerful testimonial of the strong relationship they have built. When Rawah first came to Tiyya, she had fled violence in Iraq, had to leave her Bachelor’s program and friends behind, and didn’t speak a word of English. With Brandi’s support, she has accomplished so much. From learning English, to receiving her driver’s license, to re-enrolling in college, to creating her resume and obtaining employment, to speaking on stage in front of 100 people confidently in English - Rawah has much to be proud of. Rawah said;

 “I am confident today because I have always had Tiyya - Brandi, Laura, Meymuna, and Jasmine - by my side when I need them. Tiyya is my family.”


Very Special thanks to:  Rabbi Sarah Bassin and our friends at Temple Emanuel for continuing to welcome our new neighbors with Tiyya. Rawah and Brandi for sharing the beauty of the relationship they have built. Rockharbor Church for donating venue space, volunteers to babysit, and over $2000 to Tiyya’s programs. Andrea David and Kevin Rogers for donating their photography for the evening. Tiyya’s refugee chefs for catering a delicious international supper made with love.


And thank you  to all of our friends who donated generously to sustain Tiyya’s programs in person at the Holiday Party and online. Together we raised a total  $14,937! 


THANK YOU for standing together and supporting our mission to create a community that fosters the development of self-sufficiency.