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Refugee Champion Award

The ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement)» proclaims a refugee champion as a leader in promoting the successful integration of newcomers into our communities.NSDI (Nile Sisters Development Initiative) is proud to honor the following individuals with Refugee Champion Awards for their advocacy on behalf of refugees and newcomers in San Diego County.

2019 Honorees

  • Mary Johnson | American Women for International Understanding
    Mary Johnson is a devoted volunteer for many causes in San Diego County, including her tireless advocacy for the mission of Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI). Mary has served on the Board of Directors to grow the impact of NSDI in the community. In the past, she has served as the President of the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary and the St. Germaine Children’s Charity, in addition to supporting other initiatives such as the Kroc Center, Center for Children, Historical Society and Globe Guilders.


  • Dr. Melaku Mekuria | Maranatha Ethiopian Church
    Dr. Mekuria is the Senior Pastor of Maranatha Ethiopian Church. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Dr. Melaku left his country of origin at the age of 22 and became a refugee in Sudan, where he lived for seven years. During this time, Dr. Melaku ministered to other Ethiopian refugees who were forced out of their country due to instability. In 1989, Dr. Melaku met and married his wife, Genet Baraki and in 1990, they came to the United States. Today, Pastor Melaku is a father to four children, two boys, and two girls. Dr. Melaku has been pastoring in San Diego for the past 24 years and continues to spread the gospel to all communities at Maranatha Ethiopian Church in its new location in Logan Heights.


  • Homayoun Nabizadeh | San Diego Police Department
    Originally from Iran, Officer Nabizadeh serves as the Islamic and Arab American Community Liaison for the San Diego Police Department. Two years after arriving in San Diego from Iran, in 1979, due to the U.S. Embassy take over in Iran, Officer Homayoun faced the task of responding to negative media coverage of Iran’s culture and Islam. It was then that Officer Homayoun chose to educate the community about Iranian culture and its genuine beliefs, embodying the mindset that “one good deed deserves another.” Today, Officer Homayoun works with various public and private agencies, to build bridges with the refugee and immigrant communities, assuring the communities that their safety and security is law enforcement’s goal.

2019 Award Photos»

2017 Honoree


  • Congresswoman Susan Davis | CA 53rd Congressional District
    Throughout her prolific career, Congresswoman Susan Davis has been a steadfast advocate for new Americans. Her commitment is evident in San Diego’s most diverse community; City Heights, where she has established a community center for refugees and community members alike, to gain access to resources for socio-economic empowerment.

    Congresswoman Susan Davis has also demonstrated her support to newcomers, by assisting refugee-led organizations in providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services to new Americans, so they not only survive but thrive.

    Nile Sisters Development Initiative is proud to honor Congresswoman Susan Davis with the 2017 Refugee Champion Award for her tireless and continued advocacy on behalf of refugees and newcomers in San Diego County.

2017 Award Photos»