From June 18-20th, LIRS will host 51 outstanding former refugee leaders from across the country for World Refugee Day Academy. The three day event will focus on building advocacy, leadership, and community organizing skills that participants will take back to their communities. The Academy participants are individuals with unique backgrounds, careers, and talents. Today we profile Nyamuoch Girwath, a professional model and former refugee.
Nyamuoch Girwath, 24, was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia after her family was forced to flee their home in South Sudan on foot due to civil war. Her family was resettled to the United States by LIRS when she was just four years old, and she grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. She notes that as a child, it was difficult to balance helping her family with the resettlement process while wanting to grow up as a “normal American kid.” She explains:
I was their protector. I missed school most days to translate for my parents and attend doctor appointments with them. I always felt like it was my responsibility to take care of them, because I saw them get taken advantage of and discriminated against…I wanted to know English very well so my parents would not be treated badly. I wanted to learn how to write so I could fill out their applications. I remember bringing home my homework to help my parents learn with me. Since they could not help me with my homework, I decided to teach them.
Usually quiet and shy, Nyamuoch found modeling to be an outlet and escape, and she was encouraged greatly by a group of women in her community who pushed her to follow her dreams. She was scouted by an agent at Wilhelmina Models while working for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska through AmeriCorps, but didn’t decide to pursue a modeling career until her sophomore year in college. Four years ago she moved to New York City, where she is currently both a student, and a successful professional runway and print model. She has modeled for Elle Magazine and Obakki, and has been involved in activism around the crisis in South Sudan. In her application for World Refugee Day Academy, Nyamuoch explains her commitment to using her career to draw attention to issues she is passionate about. “I’m also trying to use my platform as a model and collaborate with magazines and fashion designers in bringing awareness about South Sudan and the refugees here in the States,” she writes. Although she is active in New York, she remains closely connected to the refugee community in Omaha where she was raised.
Recalling the challenges of growing up in a refugee family, Nyamuoch cares deeply about helping children like she once was navigate the resettlement experience. She heard about World Refugee Day Academy through social media, and saw it as an opportunity to develop advocacy skills and build knowledge. She looks forward to meeting others who have gone through similar experiences and being a part of a network of leaders. After the Academy, Nyamuoch plans to use what she has learned to better help communities “bridge the gaps” that refugees face with resettlement and integration. She dreams about someday building a youth center to mentor young refugee teens in Omaha- coming full circle to give back to the community where her family began their resettlement journey so many years ago.
LIRS is honored to host Nyamuoch and looks forward to partnering with her as she speaks out for refugees and uprooted people. For more information about the event, visit the World Refugee Day Academy info page or email Erin Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org. For press inquiries, please contact Miji Bell at email@example.com.