Refugee voices at the table

Jun 13, 2024

We are proud to announce the new Refugee Education Council cohort - an impressive group of young refugee leaders, teachers and advocates from all around the world. 

With a diverse range of lived experience, technical expertise and passions, the Council is committed to influencing policy, engaging with leaders, and amplifying refugee voices in global decision-making. 

Get to know the inspiring individuals who are shaping the future of education for the world's most vulnerable learners. 

The Refugee Education Council (2024)

Hawa Abdi, Somalia/Canada

Role: Gender Equality Specialist

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Hawa is a Somali refugee, born in the Marafa refugee camp in Kenya's coastal region. Hawa was raised in a family of 10 children: eight girls and two boys. Despite growing up in a patriarchal community, she witnessed her mother’s commitment to ensuring that she and her sisters had access to education. Inspired by her mother, Hawa dreamed of becoming a journalist to tell stories that fight patriarchy in her community and promote girls’ education. In 2019, she was admitted into Nişantaşı Üniversitesi in Istanbul, Türkiye, where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Media and Journalism.

Hawa is a member of UNGEI’s Transform Education Coalition and the Refugee Education Council (2023). She has also co-led the Girls’ Education in Emergencies Working Group and SheLeads Kakuma, a project that facilitates leadership and mentorship programming for young girls in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Lutfullah Ahmadzai, Afghanistan/Canada

Role: Strategic Engagement Lead, Government and Civil Society

Lutfullah Ahmadzai is a dedicated youth advocate and fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing an Honours Double Major in Global Development and Governance at Huron University. Originally from Afghanistan, Lutfullah sought refuge in Canada following the 2021 Taliban takeover while his family resides in Pakistan as refugees.

In 2019, Lutfullah was awarded aHeadshot of male wearing burgundy suit merit scholarship to complete his high school diploma in Germany. His journey in advocacy and education has been marked by diverse professional and volunteer experiences, where he has consistently aimed to foster positive change. This includes advocating for refugees and supporting newcomers in his new community. Lutfullah is the Co-Chair of the United World Colleges Afghanistan National Committee, part of a global movement that promotes peace and sustainable development through education.

Lutfullah has substantial experience in public affairs and policy advocacy through internships and associate roles at Crestview Strategy and Plan International Canada and as a teaching assistant at Huron University. He has volunteered at the Cross-Cultural Learner Center to support refugees in Canada, and remotely, he volunteers with Camp Afghanistan, where he supports young Afghan girls and refugees in securing study-abroad opportunities.

Elisha Byalungwe, Democratic Republic of Congo/Uganda

Role: Inclusion Specialist

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Elisha is deeply committed to inclusive education. He focuses on serving marginalized groups, particularly in emergency situations like refugee camps. With a Bachelor’s degree in Education and extensive experience as a special needs teacher, he has tailored educational practices to support diverse learner needs, promoting resilience and continuity in learning amid crises.

Elisha’s work spans early childhood to adolescent education, where he’s implemented curricula tailored for emergency contexts. This ensures that education is not disrupted, even in unstable conditions. His certifications in Early Childhood Special Education Needs and Special Educational Needs Coordination (SENCO) enable him to design educational programs that consider all learners' cognitive and emotional development. As Chairperson of the Association of Refugees with Disabilities and Vice Chairperson of Angels Rainbow Group, he understands the challenges faced by refugee communities.

Working with organizations like the Uganda Red Cross Society and AVSI Foundation, Elisha has integrated educational initiatives with community support efforts, enhancing the effectiveness of programs that foster inclusive environments.

Adriana Figueredo, Venezuela/México

Role: Strategic Engagement Lead, Refugee and Youth Networks

Adriana was born in Venezuela andHeadshot of female wearing green shirt has lived in México as a refugee since 2017. She graduated with a Bachelor's in International Relations at the Universidad del Valle de México as a DAFI Scholar.

Adriana has led multiple delegations to participate in Model United Nations. She is passionate about leadership, democracy, women's rights, and higher education for refugees, especially regarding issues impacting the Latin Americas and the Caribbean.

Adriana is the Global Leader and focal point in Latin America for the Tertiary Refugee Student Network (TRSN) and an advocate with UNHCR, championing human rights and girls´ and refugee education.

She has participated as a speaker and moderator in events such as RewirEd Global Education Summit (2021), the Dubai Expo Knowledge and Learning Week, Transforming Education Pre-Summit and Summit (2022), High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges focusing on Development Cooperation (2022), Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference (2023) and the United Nations General Assembly (2023).

Asma Ghazi, Afghanistan/Italy

Role: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Lead

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Asma is a dedicated professional with a diverse political affairs, international relations, event management, and academia background. With experience promoting bilateral relations, managing databases, and facilitating diplomatic communication at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, she possesses a strong foundation in fostering collaboration and partnership initiatives. Proficient in multiple languages, including Dari/Persian, English, German, Italian, and upper intermediate Arabic, Asma excels in effective communication with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.

In her role as Australia and New Zealand Political Desk Member at the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Asma supported promoting bilateral relations with Afghanistan. As an Events and Communications Manager at Chadari Project, Asma has honed her ability to work with teams to promote events.

Asma’s academic journey includes a PhD in Political Science and International Relations, a Master's Degree in International Public Affairs, and an Executive Master in Governance and Implementation of SDG-2030. Complemented by training courses like Leading Inclusive 4IR from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, she is committed to continuous learning and professional development.

Farah Ibrahim, Somalia/Kenya

Role: Child and Community Engagement Lead (Africa)

Farah was born in Bardera, Somalia. Since 2012, he has been living alone after fleeing to the Dadaab refugee camp. As a member of a marginalized community in Somalia, Farah’s journey has been marked by adversity, resilience, and a deep commitment to education and advocacy.

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Growing up without parental care and facing discrimination , Farah was determined to defy the odds. Despite the challenges, he excelled academically, completing high school in Kenya. This achievement was a personal victory and the realization of his lifelong dream to become educated and empower others through education.

He began volunteering with UNHCR in 2021, actively participating in human rights protection efforts. Transitioning to a role with Save the Children International in 2023, he initially worked in early childhood education and was quickly promoted to a role as a psychosocial support teacher within the education department. This role allows him to support children facing various challenges, fostering their emotional well-being and academic success.

His advocacy efforts have been recognized by UNHCR, who awarded Farah for his work in promoting gender equality within the Ifo Camp in Dadaab.

Additionally, he’s contributed to digital literacy initiatives at Youth Education Pack Centers operated by the Norwegian Refugee Council, enabling refugees to access educational opportunities in an increasingly digital world. His commitment to community-based protection led him to work with Humanity and Inclusion as a community-based protection worker, focusing on disabilities and key populations.

Lal Rai, Pakistan

Role: Climate Change Specialist

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Growing up amidst relentless droughts and witnessing the devastating impacts of internal displacement, Lal learned the pain of these hardships. This personal exposure instilled in him a strong sense of responsibility to become an advocate for the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in society.

His journey as a humanitarian worker began through work with socio-economically disadvantaged groups, including climate-affected individuals, internally displaced persons, and Afghan refugees in Pakistan. While working with the World Food Programme, he was a monitoring assistant, ensuring that aid reached the most vulnerable populations. During the 2022 flood emergency, he facilitated cash and food support to nearly 10,000 families.

Currently, as a program assistant with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Lal focuses on livelihood initiatives for Afghan refugees. This includes providing cash assistance, technical and vocational skills training, and support for small business ventures alongside community rehabilitation work.

He also leads Refugee and Migration Lab, an organization that aims to end the marginalization of one of the world’s most vulnerable communities: migrants and refugees. He aims to create a world where every refugee and migrant is treated with dignity, compassion, and respect, ensuring they can rebuild their lives and access quality education to thrive.

Lal's vibrant, passionate, innovative, and proactive approach has garnered recognition through numerous awards, including the UNDP Youth Innovation Challenge, UNFPA Health and Wellbeing Challenges, the US Embassy Grant for Interfaith Harmony Project, the DICE Film Competition, and more.

Daria Meirhut, Ukraine/Slovakia

Role: Communications Lead

Headshot of female wearing grey.Daria is a dynamic and ambitious Ukrainian student passionate about connecting with diverse audiences, especially children and teenagers. She is experienced in social media, digital communication, and youth engagement.For the past year, Daria has been working with UNICEF Slovakia RRO as a youth on the Move Fellow in the Education team on strengthening the Ukrainian refugee response.

Currently, she is in the Education, Early Childhood Development, and Adolescent Development and Participation programme as a junior consultant. During her Youth on the Move Fellow journey, Daria had the chance to work with various partners and projects to strengthen the Ukrainian refugee response in Slovakia. Her responsibilities ranged from engaging in communications projects to mapping the needs and challenges of Ukrainian youth, allowing her to develop a deep understanding of cross-sectoral approaches necessary for effective programming.

Her academic background includes a Bachelor's in Media Relations from the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Trnava. Daria’s experience as a television news editor and moderator on TA3 provided her with communication skills and taught her the importance of clear and engaging delivery.

Fernanda Morales Rodriquez, Mexico/Canada

Role: Child and Community Engagement Lead (Americas)

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Fernanda is a compassionate Latin youth who has navigated life's challenges as an unaccompanied refugee. This experience fueled her journey as a changemaker dedicated to advocating for unrepresented communities and driving positive impact. She has an educational background in Business and Technology and is seeking a career in Social Sciences.

Fernanda is part of the Leading Social Justice Collective with United Greater Way, the School of Cities with the University of Toronto, and the Immigrant and Refugee Communities Neighbourhood Friends and Families Campaign, among other committees and projects.

Motivated by her passion for activism, Fernanda started her grassroots group called Sisters in Action, which aims to empower, educate, and provide well-being activities to vulnerable Latin women in Canada.

Through her work, Fernanda strives to create safe spaces for newcomers, refugees, and people with precarious status.

Louange Koffi, Togo/Ghana

Role: Chairperson

Headshot of female wearing blue.Louange is a passionate and dedicated nurse, mentor and advocate for education and gender equality. She served as a UNFPA Youth Leaders Fellow (2022/2023) and is a member of the Amahoro Coalition Fellowship and Solutions for Youth Employment Coalition. She also served as a member of the Refugee Education Council in 2023. She represented the Council at the Global Refugee Forum (2023) in Geneva, where she helped amplify Canada’s work in education in crisis.

Louange was an assistant caregiver at Point Hope International (NGO), based in Krisan Camp. There, she assisted caregivers in caring for children between the ages of two and four and prepared them for learning. Further, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Louange taught students at Krisan Refugee Camp, recognizing the importance of education in challenging circumstances.

Beyond her work and advocacy in health and education, Louange shines as a mentor to refugees and her fellow nurses. With a special focus on refugee girls and marginalized communities, her dedication is driven by a vision: a world where access to quality healthcare and education is a universal right.

Zoya Miari, Palestine/Ukraine/Switzerland

Role: Advocacy and Communications Lead

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Zoya is a peace ambassador of Palestinian-Ukrainian origin. Having experienced two wars and become a refugee twice, her life journey has given her a unique perspective and a passion for storytelling. Zoya has dedicated herself to documenting the stories of refugees, recognizing the importance of preserving these narratives for future generations. She founded Waves to Home, a global storytelling movement committed to changing the world through the transformative power of storytelling. Through interviews, photography, and written accounts, she has captured the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of individuals forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution, or other crises.

Her dual role as a workshop facilitator and storyteller has equipped Zoya with a deep understanding of the power of narrative in shaping individual identities and collective perceptions. She is committed to leveraging this understanding to advocate for inclusive and accessible education. She recognizes education as a fundamental human right and a transformative tool for empowerment and social change, particularly for refugees and marginalized communities. Zoya aspires to become a positive psychologist and help others create meaningful lives despite their traumas.

Vivian Shaima, Iraq/Jordan

Role: Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Specialist

Vivian is a courageous advocate for refugeHeadshot of a female wearing blacke rights, a social worker, and educator. Her lived experience as a refugee fuels her dedication to advocating for marginalized communities. She is committed to reducing social injustice and driving community change through her work and advocacy. Vivian holds an undergraduate degree in Humanities from Bard College and is certified as a trainer through the Trauma Healing Institute.

Vivian lived in Iraq with her family until 2014 when ISIS came to her town and forced them to leave everything behind. She then became an internally displaced person before finally moving to Jordan in search of a better life, education, opportunities, and future. Today, Vivian brings experience across several key areas, focusing on education in emergencies, teaching, youth skills, digital learning, and mental health and psychosocial support. As a learning facilitator and mental health and psychosocial support worker, she works closely with refugee youth, especially young girls with the New Horizons program.

Currently, Vivian works as a refugee guidance counsellor for a refugee-led program of complementary pathways in Jordan. In this role, she conducts informational sessions and provides individual support to empower refugees to access opportunities such as higher education and the labour market outside Jordan as an alternative way for resettlement and enhance their eligibility for those opportunities with UNHCR and the World University Service of Canada. She also serves as an educator at Amala, where she leads the first internationally accredited secondary diploma for global refugees. The curriculum, designed by United World Colleges, includes subjects such as Ethical Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, and Peacebuilding. This diploma not only educates but also empowers refugees, providing them with the tools and skills required to rebuild their lives and contribute meaningfully to society. Vivian is a member of UNESCO’s SDG4 Youth and Student Network and a member of the Refugee Education Council (2023).

Nyenty Obi Stephanie, Cameroon/Nigeria

Role: Gender Equality Specialist

Headshot of female wearing black and white.Nyenty and her family fled her home country of Cameroon immediately after her graduation because of the ongoing civil war.

As a refugee, she witnessed inequities and lack of access to sexual health resources among young girls in her community, sparking her interest in human rights and gender equality advocacy.

Nyenty’s passion and lived experience led her to complete a law degree, which equipped her with critical tools to advocate for the rights of marginalized communities effectively. As part of this, Nyenty founded a refugee-led organization that supports the most pressing education and human rights needs faced by girls and women in her community.

In addition, Nyenty has volunteered with UNHCR for over five years, advocating for the rights of young girls and women, particularly the most marginalized. Most recently, Nyenty was appointed and inducted as a Gender Equality Ambassador with the 1000 Peace Ambassadors of Nigeria for her advocacy work.

The Refugee Education Council is hosted by World Vision Canada in collaboration with the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group. The Council is funded by the Government of Canada and was originally launched as part of Canada’s Together for Learning Campaign. Today, the Council continues to work closely with the Government of Canada, multilateral partners, civil society and other refugee and youth networks to advocate for more sustainable, inclusive and quality education and learning for all children and youth.

Join us in this transformative journey as we work together to build a world where every refugee child and youth has access to quality education and the opportunity to reach their full potential. Follow the Refugee Education Council on social media @RECforLearning.