From Many Cultures for One Big Celebration

It’s always an extraordinary and beautiful thing when people from dozens of cultures and countries can come together to celebrate our human family! And that’s exactly what happened at 2018 Taste of the World, attended by more than 400 friends, supporters, staff, former refugees, and family members.


From the bottom of our hearts, all of us at Refugees Northwest are grateful for the more than $50,000 raised to continue serving refugees and asylum seekers with cross cultural counseling, transportation and housing support, foster care, emergency food supplies, complex medical case management, and much more.

Refugees Northwest guest speaker and client, Seyfu Lakew

One of the most touching parts of the evening came during the speech of Seyfu Lakew, formerly of Ethiopia, who had been granted asylum in the United States just a few short years ago.  He spoke of his childhood, stolen by Somali soldiers, and spent in concentration camps from the age of six until 17.  Seyfu went on to describe his homecoming after Ethiopia and Somalia came to an agreement about releasing the prisoners, and his hard work at school to earn two Masters Degrees, one in Public Health, and another in Geographic Information System mapping and data.

Later in his work, he studied the effect of climate change in Ethiopia, specifically the ways in which government land use aggravated the poverty rate.  His proposals to grant communities the right to own and manage land put him in conflict with the government, resulting in his repeated arrest, jailing, and torture.  On a professional trip to the U.S., Seyfu was allowed to apply for asylum, a right encoded in both U.S. Federal Law and in international agreements to which the U.S. is party.  Refugees Northwest was able to help Seyfu with medical evaluations to support his case, counseling, and help with transportation and housing.  Once his asylum was won, Refugees Northwest remained by his side and helped him apply for his wife and two young children to join him.  After more than three years alone, Seyfu succeeded in reuniting his family.  They arrived around Christmas time last year, and Seyfu says, “I still have to check to make sure they are really here and that I am not dreaming it!”

Seyfu brought the house down as he described his new job working in Geographic Information Systems for a ride-sharing company, and his dreams now to raise his children free from the conflict that wracked his own life.  He dreams too of seeing them through college and settled in their own families one day.

Attorney Maggie Cheng of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Dr. Carey Jackson of the International Medicine Clinic, Honoree Dr. Rich Kovar of Country Doctor, and Refugees Northwest Director Beth Farmer

Also honored was family physician Dr. Rich Kovar of Country Doctor Public Health Clinic, a more than two-decade advocate for asylum-seekers and an experienced medical evaluator who’s helped hundreds of people gain the ability to stay safely in the U.S.

Apna Bhangra Crew

The evening wrapped up with an amazing night of dancing, first with a performance from the Apna Bhangra Crew and then a dance lesson for the party-goers which no one will ever forget!


A HUGE thanks to our corporate sponsors: Starbucks, Virginia Mason, and Community Health Plan of Washington!


And the evening would not have been possible without the tireless planning of Advancement Coordinator Allison Carver, who raffled off our new Refugees Northwest hoodies and other fun swag!


By the way, you can get your Refugees Northwest hoodies, t-shirts, shopping bags, mugs and more HERE!

And a huge shout out to Director of Community Programs Amy Lloyd Wagner for her stellar organization for the event and her gorgeous photos (donated by her photography business, A.Lorae Photography)!

Right: Amy Wagner, Director of Community Programs for Refugees Northwest

We are also grateful to all of our gifted staff and many generous others who donated, volunteered, set up and cleaned up, and otherwise made sure we all had a spectacular time!

If you missed your chance to join us this year, you can still get in on the joy by making a donation today. We need your support now more than ever!


Thank you all and see you next year for Taste of the World 2019! Everyone is welcome!