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Essay Contest - 2018

June 20th

Safed  House Announces Winners of 2018 Essay Contest

Their stories recounted arduous journeys taken in hopes of a better life

in America

Scottsdale, AZ -  Safed House, a 501 c-3 non-profit that provides a welcoming place for refugees and immigrants to share their stories in a culturally sensitive context, is pleased to announce the winners of this year's Safed House essay contest which is awarded annually on World Refugee Day.

1st Place: Alaa Alothman (from Syria): "A courageous and astounding tale of a young girl and her family fleeing Syria, being ostracized as refugees in Jordan, and at last finding refuge in America."

Alaa will receive a $500 award and will be interviewed for a testimonial of her story, to appear soon, on Safed House website.

2nd place: Poung Change (from Myanmar): "A beautifully written story about the loss of home and finding opportunities in an unfamiliar land."

Poung will receive a $250 cash award and will be interviewed for a testimonial of his story, to appear soon, on Safed House website.

3 runners up: Souzan Brimo (from Syria); Areli Rodriguez Magana (From Mexico); Prashna Rai (from Nepal)

Honorable Mention: Christine Nyamurigerwa (from Burundi)

The three runners up and honorable mention winners will receive college essay mentoring from Brooklyn-based IVY-league graduate and published author. Also they will be included in a roundtable sharing circle video recounting some of the experiences.

"We are thrilled and honored that in this second year of our essay contest we received over fifty harrowing yet hopeful stories," says Hannah Lillith Assadi, head judge of the Safed House Essay Contest. "There were so many compelling stories that it was difficult to pick our winners." The contestants represented the challenges of adjusting to life in America from countries all around the globe, ranging from East Asia to the Middle East, from Africa to South America. Many shared a common vision, though their journeys had not been easy, they believed that America could still promise them a brighter future. "Though we couldn't award as many essays as we would have liked, all of our contestants are promising dreamers of the American dream," says Assadi. The contest was open to any student not yet pursuing a higher education, i.e. in high school who migrated to the US during their own lifetime. The essay contest was made available to students in the Phoenix, AZ area including Alhambra High School, Coronado High School and Dobson High School.

A team of three judges selected the winners. Assadi holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University School of the Arts. Recently she was awarded the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters. Her novel Sonora was a finalist for the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Award. This year Safed House judges also included Roger Lurie, an information technology consultant at ASU, who also mentors youth through Tempe's College Connect program and serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for youth in dependent care. Therese Beckman, R.D.H. practices Dental Hygiene. She also has cultivated a number of passions from all styles of dance to needlework and from volunteering for non-profit organizations including Safed House to becoming an avid genealogist from which she discovered her own European ancestors who fled religious persecution to come to America.

Support for the video production will be provided by University of Advancing Technology UAT. A donation was made recently by Julie English and Huda Asadi to support the first place winner's video.

About Safed House: Safed House is a 501 c 3 non-profit that provides a welcoming place for refugees and recent immigrants to share their stories.  Our mission is to develop a culturally sensitive space for refugees to find voice in the American tapestry. We are dedicated to representing unheard voices of refugees and are providing a secure platform where they can safely tell their human-interest narratives to an empathetic audience.

Safed House takes its inspiration from Safed, a small town in the northern Galilee, which was once home to many Palestinians who became refugees in 1948. The founders of Safed House are a mixed household reigning from Palestinian and Jewish American descent. We hope to promote further understanding between refugees, from the Middle East and elsewhere, and the many descendants of refugees and immigrants who comprise much of America's diverse fabric.

We are creating an environment where refugees can tell their stories with the goal of bridge building (into the community at large). The organization is focused on programs and activities to help shift the perspective in America regarding refugees from one of daunting and fearful statistics to one worthy of compassion and awe.

Through digital media education, Safed House will demonstrate how refugees and immigrants have and continue to improve America. For more information or to donate contact by phone 800 922 8792 or 480 510 4881 or by email Please follow us on Facebook @safedhouse and our website at

Media Contact: 

Susan Gitenstein Assadi at

Or by phone at: 800 922 8792 or 480 510 4881