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Amaanah Refugee Services Sets the Bar for Houston Refugees

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Maggy Ibrahim

Maggy Ibrahim serves as the Writers Officer of the Egyptian American Society of Houston


Upon entering the Amaanah Refugee Services office, I felt like there was something different about this organization. This would not be my first time volunteering to help refugees. As an International Studies major, I have previously worked with refugees. My experience includes working with a startup nonprofit organization in Amman, Jordan that worked with Iraqi refugees, the UNRWA with Palestinian refugees in Michigan, and the US Fund for UNICEF to raise money for Syrian refugees worldwide. However, my experience with Amaanah was unique in its kind.

I had the pleasure to meet Ghulam Kehar, Executive Director and co-founder of the organization, and Ahmad Alaswad, Director of Development. It was astonishing to see how driven these two young individuals are about the organization’s mission.

Refugees come to Houston in large amounts. In 2014 alone, 70,000 came to the United States, the largest houser of relocated refugees. Of these refugees, 41% are from the Middle East and Africa and 36% are Arabic speakers. Texas welcomes the largest number of refugees and Houston is the number one city in the United States to house them.

Refugees that move to the U.S. are given benefits for three to six months to help settle down. They begin their lives here in debt because they take their plane tickets to the United States as a loan at first. They are socially isolated due to their unfamiliarity with the American culture and/or the English language. Government services lack personal touch. This was the inspiration for the founding of Amaanah Refugee Services.

The organization was launched in 2008, relying solely on volunteers, and hired its first official staff in 2011. The organization provides three main programs; material support, a universal soccer league, and an after school educational program partnered with the University of Houston for refugee youth. Amaanah provides services to more than 5,000 refugees and has a budget of $820,000 as of 2014. “We started with $156 back in 2006, we’ve come a long way,” said Kehar. 75% of the budget comes from private donations and 25% from corporate donations. “Our mission is to revolutionize refugee services,” Kehar said. He foresees the organization expanding and going nationwide.

Amaanah’s doors are open to all ages and is affiliated with many organizations. “We’ve partnered with government agencies that are funded… to extend support to refugees,” Kehar said, “…including the City of Houston, Houston Independent School District, the YMCA , and Islamic Relief Fund.” Amaanah’s partnership and relationships with Houstonians and the community’s support are what make it what it is today.

I felt a sense of family and warmth at the Amaanah office. That personal touch is what sets it apart from other organizations. Here refugees are not numbers, but humans.. Amaanah’s growth is dependent on its welcoming staff and heartwarming office.


Ghulam Kehar


Kehar moved to Houston in 2006 to study economics and finance at the University of Houston. He helped launch Amaanah in 2008. Upon graduation in 2009, Kehar relocated to Galveston to work on contract work after Hurricane Ike while simultaneously working with Amaanah.


Please join the EAS board members at the next Amaanah event on June 28th, 2015 at the Hilton Americas for a Benefit Dinner for Refugees in Houston.



For more information about Amaanah: https://www.refugeelink.com/

For a list of future Amaanah events: https://www.refugeelink.com/get-involved/events/

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