June 20th is World Refugee Day, a time to honor the courage and resilience of people around the world who have been forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution. This day has special significance for us at Rivanna because our company was founded with the express purpose of creating jobs to meet the needs of recently-arrived refugees in our community.
In the summer of 2001, I contacted the Charlottesville office of the International Rescue Committee and asked the Executive Director, Susan Donovan, about the best types of jobs for refugees. Susan suggested assembly, distribution, or light manufacturing jobs – safe entry-level positions, close to public transportation, requiring little or no English. After some research, I settled on FSC-certified wood products manufacturing. In February 2002, Rivanna hired our first refugee, Admir Hasanovic, who had just arrived with his wife and daughter from Bosnia. Admir started out in our woodshop and today he is our Woodshop Manager. If you have purchased or won an FSC-certified award from us in the past 13 years, chances are your award passed through Admir’s caring and capable hands, probably more than once.
This week, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Admir, and his experience of starting a new life in America. You’ll also hear from our Principal Designer, Kristina Constantine, who joined us in 2004, and Anelya Mkrtumova, our Operations Manager, who has been with us since 2007. Admir, Kristina, and Anelya are now U.S. citizens. They are key members of our Rivanna team and shining examples of refugees who have thrived personally and professionally since they and their families resettled in Charlottesville. I am deeply grateful for their many contributions to our company and our community, and for all that they have taught us so far.
According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently more than 50 million people in the world who have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict or persecution. You can help. Please contribute today to the International Rescue Committee.
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