On International Women’s Day, Celebrating Refugee Women in Lancaster

March 5, 2021

Meet Ruhama, Marie, Sami, Apsara and Muna. All five are refugees or asylum seekers who have participated in programs through our office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. All five are using their strength to make their community a safer, healthier, more vibrant place. 💙

Each woman was nominated for recognition by CWS staff, and you’ll see why below. Then we asked them for their own views on what makes a strong woman, why it’s important to welcome refugees and immigrants into our communities, and what they love most about life in the United States. Here’s what they had to say:



Ruhama Lamure was born in Ethiopia and lived in Kenya for a few years before coming to the United States in 2010.

CWS staff nomination: “Ruhama’s passion for social justice as well as her aspirations toward a career in law enforcement make her an ideal candidate for modern policing. I fully expect that in the not too distant future, we will be applauding the good works of Police Chief Lamure.” (And Ruhama is on her way–she was just accepted to the police academy!)

Ruhama on strong women: “A strong woman gets back up, no matter how many times life knocks her down. She’s someone who can forgive those who have wronged her. A strong woman does not let the standards and expectations of society tell her what she can and cannot do. A strong woman knows her worth, she won’t dim her shine for anyone.”

Ruhama on welcoming refugees and immigrants: “Refugees and Immigrants come to this country seeking a better life. They are all skilled, they have talents, ideas, and gifts. All things that could better a community. When people accept refugees and immigrants and listen to what they have to say, then the community flourishes as a whole.”

Ruhama on her favorite things about the United States: “I have enjoyed a lot about coming to America, from the education to the people. But if I had to pick one thing that I have enjoyed above all is the opportunities that have opened up for my family and I.”



Marie is from Haiti. She came to the United States in 2015. 

CWS staff nomination: “Marie and her husband and children made the dangerous journey to the U.S like so many others, looking for a safe place for their family to live and thrive. As an asylum seeker, Marie faced many hardships as she and her family anxiously awaited the approval of their asylum application. It’s hard enough to go through on your own, but being a parent means protecting and making the best for your kids even in the worst times. Marie and her family stayed on friends couches for almost a year as they waited for relief—all the while Marie holding out hope for a better future for her children. She figured out how to enroll her kids in school, holding education as utmost importance. Once they were granted asylum and were able to be a part of CWS programs, Marie worked tirelessly teaching her children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic with online school, and at the same time studying English herself and attending Teachers Assistant training. Through her perseverance, Marie was able to secure a job as a Personal Care Assistant in Emotional support for children with developmental disabilities as a paraeducator. Her commitment to bettering not only the future of herself and her family but also those in less fortunate situations is what makes her an incredible woman.”

Marie on strong women: “Being a strong woman is how you deal with situations you encounter in your life. Those might seem impossible to control, but never give up. Being a strong woman is a personal decision to never go down no matter what. To be a strong woman is also to recognize your weakness because you can know yourself better than anyone else. To be a strong woman is above all, to be determined to look to the future with confidence.”

Marie on welcoming refugees and immigrants:
“Welcoming immigrants is a compelling, loving deed for a country, community, or organization to partner with.

The state of being an immigrant, refugee or asylee is a very dire and even humiliating reality. The person loses almost all that he possessed: his wealth, his culture, his memoire, his land, his family… He becomes vulnerable. With sometimes no references or roots to where he or she ends up living. This person needs a new beginning, a new identity. So, this person is in extreme need to thrive, to make the transition towards his new reality, far away from his personal history.

This reality makes it ultimately vital that the immigrant get integrated in the new society. A good welcome and integration process is a cure to so many pains that this person is facing. A compassionate welcome is the key to unleash the wonderful potential within this person, so far immigrant, afterward yet an active neighbor.

The welcoming process transforms the immigrant into an active citizen. Now, afterward, he has the full consciousness of his new society. He will want to voluntarily participate to the progress of himself, his family, and ultimately for the sake of the society that receives him as a member, when everything was dark to him.

I can testify to this. My children and I were separated from my husband for many years because of unsafe conditions in our country. The journey was terrible for us, here in the U.S. and for him over there. When, we finally had the opportunity to be together, when asylum was granted to us, it was a blessing. But, more of that, when Church Work Service heard our call for help and did so, it was really the new start. Thanks for your compassion. Now, we are on the path to build a new life, calmly, peacefully, and brightly.”

Marie on her favorite things about the United States: “Since my arrival to the United States, I have been appreciative of the cultural difference which impresses me. Cultures come together and all find their place in this welcoming land. Being an immigrant, I can only take advantage of the situation, because I will not be left behind. It is also a safe place where you can allow yourself to nurture dreams for your family.”



Samickshya Subedi, who goes by Sami, came to the United States in 2009 from Nepal.

CWS staff nomination: “In the last year alone, Sami has spearheaded an SAT and mentoring program for Bhutanese youth in Central PA, created frameworks to distribute badly needed food and supplies to families affected by COVID, worked with her colleagues to register hundreds of voters and is now working on mental health initiatives to address trauma and depression in the Bhutanese community. In 365 days. All of that.”

Sami on strong women: “To be a strong woman means to be someone who isn’t afraid to share her opinions and speak her truth. Someone who is there to listen to others, guides and acknowledges their strengths along with their weaknesses. It also means to be kind, generous, compassionate and open minded.”

Sami on welcoming refugees and immigrants: “It is important to welcome refugee and immigrants into our community as it is what makes us a whole. The diverse community we have is standing solely because of refugees and immigrants that have made their way to the United States. Without those same fellow refugees and immigrants we would be not get the chance to see the world though many perspectives but our own. They have given us a way to share culture, tradition and ideas of a new community. Welcoming them to our community means welcoming those same aspects that they have lived by and sharing it with many other just like them who also come from different parts of the world, carrying different cultures and traditions and it gives us a way to share those with one other in means of learning, building and supporting each other as a community.”

Sami on her favorite things about the United States: “I have enjoyed almost everything about coming to the United States from the people to the freedom we are granted. If I did have to pick one thing I’ve enjoyed the most in the US it would be the means of education. As a refugee my mother always told me education would be the thing that would get me everything I wanted out of life, for a girl my age that was like reaching for stars not knowing what stars were. The US has provided me with the education I’ve always dreamed of getting, till this day I believe that education is the way to achieving everything I’ve dreamed of. Education is my freedom and I am forever grateful.”



Apsara Uprety came to the United States from Nepal on June 16, 2011.

CWS staff nomination: “Apsara consistently demonstrates that there is nothing she can’t do. She is a writer, an activist, a social worker and a future educator who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’

Apsara on strong women: “To me, a strong woman is someone who gets up after every struggle they are placed through. She isn’t afraid to express her opinion and tell her truth no matter the outcomes. A strong woman doesn’t let another person bring her down, but she walks with honor and integrity.”

Apsara on welcoming refugees and immigrants: “It’s important to welcome refugees and immigrants into our communities because refugees and immigrants make up more than one third of the United States work force… Welcoming immigrants and refugees will also allow the communities to be diverse while we learn different cultures and diversity. The immigrants and refugees coming into the country also have a reason to come here, so it will also provide them with opportunities.”

Apsara on her favorite things about the United States: “Coming to the United States gave me all the opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I was able to further my education and meet so many people from all around the world. Growing up in the refugee camp in Nepal, everything seemed limited and I didn’t think there would be a world outside of the camps but now that I am here, it feels like, sky is the only limit. I really enjoy experiencing new cultures and traditions as well as meeting people from everywhere.”



Muna Nuur is a member of the CWS team in Lancaster! She is our Intensive Case Manager/Cultural Navigator. A refugee herself, Muna came to Lancaster in 2014 from Somalia and Kenya.

CWS staff nomination: “Muna Nuur is a woman of great strength, compassion and resilience, providing hope and guidance to newcomers from all walks of life in her role as a ICM & Cultural Navigator with CWS Lancaster. Aside from being a guiding voice to others as a former refugee herself, she is also attending classes at Harrisburg Area Community College to pursue a longer term career in health, eager to support and help others in our community thrive!

Muna on strong women: “Being strong means not being easily intimidated, being able to stand up for yourself, helping other in need, being kind and authentic to yourself.”

Muna on welcoming refugees and immigrants: “Welcoming refugees and immigrants into our communities not only helps them feel safe and have better opportunities to lead a better life, but it also helps our community. Refugees and immigrant bring so much to this beautiful country. They contribute to taxes, economy, cultural diversity, they sometimes go on to become our leaders, and they also bring along their skills.”

Muna on her favorite things about the United States: When we asked Muna what she has loved most about coming to the United States, she mentioned her career opportunities, the diversity…and snow!