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Lancaster refugee’s project aims to integrate community by selling ‘cultural experiences’

Mustafa Nuur

Mustafa Nuur, 24, of Lancaster, came to the U.S. from Somalia with his mother and seven siblings. He has lived in Lancaster for more than two years and describes it as a different world.

“What I like about Lancaster is the safety here,” he said. “It gives more opportunities to meet your potential quicker.”

Nuur, who has been named Church World Service’s volunteer of the year, said refugees can thrive and build meaningful relationships with others in Lancaster. He has done so himself simply by knocking on his neighbors’ doors.

But he worries, too, that too many refugees have not yet become part of the fabric of their communities.

“I realized Lancaster is a very welcoming community, but the refugee and local communities aren’t connected,” he said. “They support and donate and come to rallies, but there’s no interaction.”

To help bridge that connection, Nuur is trying to launch a service that would allow people to buy “cultural experiences” with refugees.

Such experiences could include sampling refugee-made food such as stroopies while listening to the makers’ stories, sharing a tuk-tuk ride with a refugee or enjoying a full meal and conversation in a refugee home.

Nuur’s project, conceptualized as part of The Great Social Enterprise Pitch, is aptly named Bridge. He is trying to raise money to build the online platform through the IndieGogo crowdfunding service. As of Friday, it was 76 percent funded.

“Seeing what other refugees did with their lives is inspiring,” he said. “They’re educated. They’re business owners. They’re part of the community.”

He said helping refugees settle into the community and meet their neighbors breaks down the stigma of having to leave their homelands. Nuur said his project also would be a source of income for local refugees.

“I have often wondered: What if all refugees didn’t have to get new training to make money? What if my mother’s cooking skills or my neighbor’s drumming class were paths to getting ahead and to connecting with their new local community?” Nuur wrote on the fundraising site.

Culled from Lancaster Online.

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