Development Transformations (DT) proudly celebrates World Refugee Day by highlighting two full-time staff members who are former refugees from Iraq and currently contribute to DT’s efforts to support stabilization around the world. Their local perspectives and knowledge are invaluable to DT as we strive to address complex issues through a nuanced, locally-driven lens that acknowledges and respects the lived experiences of the diverse communities we work with. Their stories are below.
Marwan, DT’s Accounts Payable Specialist, originally from Baghdad, Iraq, obtained asylum in America in 2009 after an extensive application process. Arriving in Virginia at the height of the recession, he struggled to find a job. However, he utilized his love of math and previous experience as a small business owner in Iraq to pursue a degree in accounting, and began his career in the field shortly after. While integrating his life in the US was extremely difficult initially, especially with the challenges of translating his previous business experience to the American market, Marwan appreciates what he has built for himself in the U.S. and values the resources he has to still be able to connect with friends living in Iraq. Since being at DT, Marwan has enjoyed being able to support projects that take on a global perspective and has demonstrated an exceptional ability to manage the challenges of fiscal oversight for programs run out of difficult operating environments.
Humam, DT’s Project Director for our Global Affairs Canada funded Iraq program, began his work with DT earlier this year. Humam’s career in development started as an accident, when he went into the United Nations compound to make a phone call to his then fiancée during the Iraq War in 2003. While there, he noticed an employment posting seeking an inter-agency radio operator for the U.N., which he applied for and received. Through this position, Humam built a network of connections within the field and continued to establish his career in the development sector in a wide range of roles. However, due to his work with the U.S. and greater international community, Humam grew concerned that he was putting himself and his family in a dangerous position and subsequently took steps to relocate his family to Jordan and then to Egypt. After a multi-year application process in which Humam applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (which is designed to allow Iraqis and Afghans who assist the U.S. government during wartime come to America), Humam and his family were granted refugee status in the U.S. Navigating through resettlement agencies and social service programs was, at times, discouraging, but Humam remains grateful for the assistance he received, saying that, “for all its flaws, at least there is a system of support here in America for refugees.”
Humam now works for DT directly supporting a reconciliation and civil society program in Iraq, which seeks to address some of the underlying causes of the unrest that led to his departure from his home country. His perspective and personal experience, in addition to his expansive network of local contacts, are critical to his success in the role. Humam regularly returns to Iraq to conduct site visits, meet with Members of Parliament, and, of course, take time to enjoy his favorite Iraqi food.
“For all its flaws, at least there is a system of support here in America for refugees”
DT is incredibly grateful to have Humam and Marwan on our team. They add great value to our organization not just as representatives of Iraq where DT supports multiple projects, but also as incredibly skilled technical professionals who have dedicated their careers to promoting stability and development across the globe.
Thank you, Marwan and Humam. Happy World Refugee Day.