Seyfu’s story isn’t possible without YOU! Will you help us for the holidays?

The Christmas story is one of sanctuary, of a family ‘taken in’ for safety, of a deep kindness extended. During the holiday season, as we search our own hearts, is there room to offer sanctuary here and now? Refugees Northwest serves people who have overcome hardship, survived tragedy, and arrived in our country asking for safety. For kindness. To be treated as we would want to be treated in the same situation.

Your support enables this work and helps our newest neighbors grow roots in a new country. What an amazing gift at this special time of year!


At Refugees Northwest we are privileged to see the outcome of your investment in families and in people like Seyfu Lakew. His story illustrates the enduring capacity for human resilience and joy in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and how the miracle of kindness can foster hope and healing.


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“I came to the US to save my life, but I lost many other things—my career, my family, and even my hope. It was a very dark time. I was alone. I had no money, no place to live, and I was forbidden by law from working.”

When Seyfu was only 6 years old, Somali soldiers invaded his home country of Ethiopia and captured him and his 4-year-old brother. He spent the next eleven years in a concentration camp where he was forced to work 15 hours a day and was repeatedly beaten for not working hard enough.

At age 17, after many dreadful years surrounded by death, torture, and starvation, Seyfu was finally released and able to return home. Despite a childhood full of hardship, Seyfu was determined to make up for lost time and threw himself into his education. Ten years later, he graduated from one of the best universities in Ethiopia with two Master’s Degrees in Public Health and Geographic Information System mapping.

As a working professional, Seyfu joined a political party and began his work on climate change along with research on how to eliminate poverty in Ethiopia. His government found Seyfu’s proposals threatening to their power and he was repeatedly arrested, jailed, and tortured.

Seyfu made the fateful decision to request asylum in America. He was forced to leave his whole life behind, including his wife and two children who went into hiding

“During this dark time, I came to Refugees Northwest. I was able to get the help I so badly needed.”

Refugees Northwest helped Seyfu obtain a lawyer, connected him with a counselor, helped him to acquire medical benefits, and provided him with food, clothing, and bus tickets. Almost two years later, Seyfu was granted asylum. Refugees Northwest then helped him file the immigration documents for his family to join him. After three long years, they were finally reunited.


Seyfu now works full time, is helping his wife and children settle into their new country, and is active in his community.


Your donation makes a real and lasting difference, and transforms the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in Washington. Your support means we can reach more people like Seyfu Lakew and help them rebuild their lives in safety.

You can make a difference.