Refugee leaders selected for USA for UNHCR grant in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas

December 8, 2023 — Nonprofits USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Refugee Congress and Welcoming America announce the awardees of the Sparking Change grant:

  • Derick Alimasi (TX)
  • Masouda Basharat (OK)
  • Bahati Kanyamanza (TX)
  • Aisha Koroma (TX)
  • Sara Louis-Ayo (LA)
  • Niyonsaba Magnifique (TX)
  • King Patrick Saah (LA)
  • Sateza Safi (OK)
  • Dauda Sesay (LA)
  • Faridar Binti Sirazulsalam (TX)

Announced in September, the Sparking Change grant will support community leaders who have personally experienced forced displacement and are now living in Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Texas. Grants of up to $10,000 and personal honoraria up to $2,500 will be disbursed to each awardee for building new collaborations among refugees, neighbors, and organizations; utilizing creative approaches to showcase community innovation; and scaling community impact from existing initiatives.

“USA for UNHCR is proud to champion the creativity of resettled refugees in the U.S.,” said Suzanne Ehlers, Executive Director and CEO of USA for UNHCR. “By providing meaningful financial resources and support so that these 10 remarkable individuals can implement their creative approaches, we recognize the lasting contributions resettled refugees are making in their communities.”

The U.S.-based national nonprofits Refugee Congress and Welcoming America partnered with USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to review the grant applications. 

Nili Yossinger, executive director of Refugee Congress, said: “Refugee Congress is so excited to celebrate the remarkable leaders who have been awarded the Sparking Change grant. Their projects exemplify the spirit of community and positive change that we believe has never been more critical than it is right now. Their dedication will not only foster inclusivity and welcome but will inspire others to do the same. Our heartfelt congratulations to all the grant recipients!”

Rachel Perić, executive director of Welcoming America, said: “We are deeply inspired by the Sparking Change awardees, and their leadership across Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma to build communities where all of us belong and thrive. At a time when more people around the world are being forcibly displaced, we hope that more organizations will join with us in valuing and investing in leaders with this background to be at the forefront of solutions that build a more inclusive and welcoming society for all.”

The awardees will be launching programs in 2024 and supporting applicants in their program development through networking opportunities, metric definition, and attendance at the Welcoming Interactive conference in Dallas. 


About USA for UNHCR
USA for UNHCR protects refugees and empowers them with hope and opportunity. Supporting UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – and its partners, we provide lifesaving essentials including shelter, water, food, safety and protection. Around the world, we help refugees survive, recover and build a better future. Established by concerned American citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, visit

About Refugee Congress
Refugee Congress is a national nonpartisan organization built and led by leaders who have experienced forced displacement, to promote the equal participation of refugees and all forcibly displaced people in decision-making on issues impacting our communities. We believe that policies and programs will be stronger, and that solutions will be more effective, when they are informed and crafted by those who have experienced forced displacement. With members across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, our members leverage their professional and lived expertise to ensure that refugees are equal partners in crafting policies and solutions that impact refugee communities. For more information, visit

About Welcoming America
Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Learn more