Refugees of the Year 2020 have been announced!

The Finnish Refugee Council has chosen a family worker from Helsinki, Farhia Abdi, as the Refugee Woman of the Year and Kordnejad Ebrahimi, a public service interpreter from Raisio, as the Refugee Man of the Year.

Farhia Abdi came to Finland as a refugee from Somalia with her youngest son in December of 2008. Initially she was facing a wide array of challenges, such as a long wait for the residence permit, the arrival of the rest of her family, racism and stereotypes but she was never let down by the hardships. Abdi soon grasped the basics of the Finnish language during her studies at the Huittinen’s Adult Education Centre, after which she worked as a kitchen hand, and eventually acquired a vocational qualification in social and health care. A year after being granted asylum she was given the chance to reconnect with her other seven underage children through family reunification, after four sorrowful years.

Nowadays Abdi has two jobs: as a nurse at a nursing home for elderly people with dementia, and as a family worker at a welfare service company called Hyvinvointipalvelut Arjessa Oy, which works with multicultural families and aids immigrant families with social integration into the Finnish society. On top of that, Abdi has established her own welfare service business, and she is an active member in various organizations such as Neighborhood Mothers (Naapurin äidit) and Hakunila’s International Organization.

Farhia dreams of being able to provide services to recently immigrated single mothers in the future. Accordingto her, single mothers are in danger to be left behind in Finland without grandparents or other support network.

“I want to be an example to single mothers and show them that as a single mother you can get by, learn the language, raise children, and work.”

The Refugee Man of the Year 2020, Kordnejad Ebrahimi, had to flee Iran due to being politically active, which eventually lead him and his family to Finland as “quota refugees” in 2006. Ebrahimi’s dream was to study film directing but once arriving in Finland he took on an apprenticeship as a bus driver as his Finnish language skills developed. He has undergone twelve surgeries due to his untreated, severe burn dating back to the Iranian civil war. Because of his injury and the surgeries, Kordnejad had to leave his job for a disability pension but he did not let it hold him back. He completed public service interpreter education and found himself a job in the field. He is also a board member of several associations, he has been a running candidate in municipal elections, and this summer he broadened his skill set by completing volunteer mediator training.

Ebrahimi strongly believes that immigrants and their expertise should be utilised to a greater extent in the integration process of newcomers. On his YouTube channel, Kordnejad teaches Finnish language and culture to Kurdish-speakers, and translates corona-related instructions to Kurdish.

“I noticed that the current information does not reach the Kurdish-speaking population effectively due to the language barrier. I felt that if even one Kurd gets the relevant information through my channel, I’ve done an important job.”

The board of the Finnish Refugee Council wants to highlight refugees’ active and positive action in everyday life along with their membership in society through this year’s nominations. Despite the challenges Abdi and Ebrahimi faced and are still facing, they have set a great example with their persistent and positive attitudes to refugees, migrants and other Finns alike.

The Finnish Refugee Council has selected the Refugee Woman of the Year since 1998 and the Refugee Man of the Year since 2016. The aim of the Refugee of the Year award is to support refugees in achieving their dreams and aspirations in their new homeland, and to provide a supportive example of a successful integration. The winners were announced on Thursday 10th September 2020 in Helsinki.

For more information & inquiries:

Marjukka Koskenkorva, Communications Specialist, Suomen Pakolaisapu
marjukka.koskenkorva@pakolaisapu.fi, p. 045 133 3803