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Church World Service honors those who help settle refugees

Randi B. Hagi

Church World Service Harrisonburg held its first Community Appreciation Breakfast and awards ceremony today / on Thursday. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

[sounds of people talking, kobza (Ukrainian lute) music]

CWS Lagoda.jpg
Randi B. Hagi

About 70 people from local faith communities, schools, and nonprofits were serenaded with Ukrainian folk songs by the lutist Alex Lagoda as they gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg on Thursday morning.

EMILY BENDER: Over the past year, while we were welcoming Afghan evacuees, our partners stepped up like nothing else … we wanted to be able to bring everybody together in one room just to honor those connections.

Emily Bender is the development and communications coordinator for Church World Service.

BENDER: That's what makes our community strong is having that supportive network.

Other Church World Service staff, such as Rodrigue Makelele, announced award recipients.

RODRIGUE MAKELELE: I'll be presenting the Refugee Leader of the Year, and what that means to me, or to our community, is someone who has been very much helping [us] navigate the system here. Trying to understand, when refugees come here, the skills that they have, the knowledge, the ability and the willingness to do a lot, contribute as much as possible to their community.

That award went to a man who came here in 2008 after fleeing Iraq by way of Syria. He now teaches at JMU, Bridgewater College, and Rockingham County Public Schools.

MAKELELE: Today I'll be presenting that award to Nasser Alsaadun. [applause]

Other awards were given to a volunteer English teacher, the Valley Muslim Community Foundation, and Massanetta Springs for their contributions to the Afghan refugee resettlement efforts.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Muslim organization that was awarded. WMRA regrets the error.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.