On World Refugee Day, we’re celebrating the people we serve alongside who are refugees themselves and still give back. Our community-led health care model is propelled by people like Semira, Kiffa, and Mohammad — those who know the experiences of their neighbors better than anyone, because they’ve lived similar experiences themselves. We are blessed every day by their compassion, commitment, and skill.

Read on to hear more about the people overcoming their own challenges to care for their communities!

Semira: a life of hope

Semira has found fulfillment in volunteering. Photo by Samson Yimer.

When Semira’s teammates describe her, the same words come up: strong, dedicated, and hardworking. Her commitment to the other refugees she serves is inspiring. But it’s because of her own history that she’s called to care for her neighbors.

Originally from Eritrea, Semira has lived in Ethiopia as a refugee for more than a decade. When she and her husband left Eritrea, she wasn’t sure what the future would hold. But becoming a volunteer made all the difference.

“I discovered Medical Teams when I visited for health care,” Semira says. “I was impressed by the quality of services they provided, which motivated me to join and volunteer.”

Now, she works collaboratively with staff and other volunteers to connect fellow refugees. She says, “Having spent 11 years as a refugee…I’m committed to giving back to my community and supporting others in similar situations.”

Semira adds, simply,

“A day in my life is filled with hope.”

She’s particularly passionate about malnutrition treatment. As a part of her routine, she visits families at home and identifies who might benefit from supplementary nutrition. Prior to Medical Teams’ program for malnutrition treatment, it was often difficult for families to get treatment for their child. Now, she says, “every [child with moderate acute malnutrition] is admitted to the targeted supplementary feeding program. This achievement stands out as a success story for me.”

More than anything, Semira wants the global community to understand how disruptive displacement can be. She says, “I want the world to understand that being a refugee, as well as being displaced, poses significant challenges and difficulties for people and their families.”

On World Refugee Day, and every day, we’re standing with refugees like Semira to create a healthier world.

Kiffa: Starting over with care

Kiffa came to Medical Teams with a background in health care. A third-year nursing student, he was excited to finish the last year of his program in Khartoum. But when war broke out in Sudan, devastating the country, Kiffa and his wife knew they needed to leave.

“Life in my country was incredibly difficult,” he shares. “The distress and misery I felt were overwhelming.”

But everything changed when Kiffa came to Medical Teams for a check-up once he arrived in Ethiopia from Sudan. There, he was so pleased with his treatment that he decided to volunteer. His experience and professionalism have been a blessing to Medical Teams!

He says,

“Medical Teams has helped me to enhance my medical care and client care skills…I felt compelled to serve as a volunteer because many community members are facing significant challenges.”

Kiffa describes his new community as “a rich tapestry of cultures, values, and beliefs when it comes to medical services.” Many people rely on traditional healers or cultural medicines, especially for mental health care. Medical Teams respects the traditions of the people we serve. We also work alongside volunteers like Kiffa to spread awareness of services, promote healthy behaviors, and break down stigma around mental health conditions.

One case in particular stands out to Kiffa. He helped care for a woman who was struggling with her mental health. Slowly, after working with Medical Teams, she began to feel better.

Kiffa says, “As her translator and part of the assisting team, I am always filled with excitement when I reflect on her progress.”

Part of the power of a day like World Refugee Day is  how it serves as a reminder that people seeking refuge, like Kiffa, are resilient, knowledgeable, and ready to help.

Mohammad: Finding joy in serving

Mohammad’s experience and wisdom make him a volunteer others rely on! Photo by Dr. Asferaw Simeneh.

Mohammad has a quiet, calm demeanor his teammates rely on. With years of experience as a volunteer, he’s well-known in the community and respected by all. After 15 years of living in Ethiopia at a refugee camp, he’s now seen war in both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Though he’s faced challenges and hardship in both countries, he continues to look for ways to help others.

Mohammad says, “I find joy and fulfillment in my daily life when I am able to support those who are in need, especially when I see the positive impact of my assistance on others.”

Today, he’s made friends among both his fellow refugees, Medical Teams staff, and his teammates. Mohammad credits their strong communication skills and team spirit as to how they stay positive and committed to caring.

And their hard work pays off! Mohammad says,

“As a community worker, I am often the first to hear about the illnesses affecting community members, and I take pride in being part of the solution for critical health issues.

He shares a fond memory of a woman named Meyirem who struggles with asthma. One day, Mohammad was making his rounds when Meyirem experienced severe shortness of breath.

He says, “Fearing for her life, I immediately rushed her to the health center. Upon arrival, the Medical Teams staff sprang into action…and within 30 minutes, Meyirem’s condition improved significantly. I am filled with happiness knowing that our quick actions saved her life. This successful outcome is a memory I will always cherish.”

We’re grateful for Mohammad and the volunteers like him on World Refugee Day and always! His commitment to his neighbors saves lives and makes the world healthier, one neighbor at a time.

Marking World Refugee Day

More people than ever before have been forced to leave home by violence or persecution, unable to return without life-threatening consequences. That’s why it’s also more important than ever to recognize the humanity in all people, but especially refugees. Days like World Refugee Day are a chance to reflect and honor the dignity of the people we serve.

If you’d like to support community health volunteers like Semira, Kiffa, and Mohammad, join The Pulse! It’s our monthly giving program that makes sure our volunteers have what they need to provide care day in and day out.