Two Marshall residents honored for ‘strength, courage and resiliency’

Sadia Salah holds her state award for being an outstanding refugee. She and her husband, Ahmed Omar, own Hindi Deli in Marshall. They are shown with two of their seven children, Asma Abdi and Osman Abdi.

MARSHALL — Two Marshall residents were honored for their “strength, courage and resiliency” Thursday — Sadia Salah, the co-owner of the Hindi Store, and Hsa Daw Mu, a parent-student connector for Marshall Public Schools.

Earlier this year the Minnesota Department of Human Services sought nominations for its Outstanding Refugee Awards “which celebrate the strength, courage and resilience of people who have had refugee status in Minnesota or are the children of refugees, and to recognize their contributions to our state.”

Outstanding individuals are recognized in each region and presented in three categories. The Entrepreneurship Award “recognizes individuals who have had refugee status who are making innovative contributions to their community in business, the arts or education.” Salah received this award.

Samira Sheikh, a refugee resettlement case manager at United Community Action Partnership, said she nominated Salah for the award because “she fit perfectly into the category” and “she is a great asset to the community.”

Salah, with her husband, Ahmed Omar, has owned the Hindi grocery store since 2005 and added the deli in 2009, a response to popular demand.

“Their business supports the local economy by providing a place where residents can purchase items that would otherwise be purchased outside of the community,” said Rachele King, who manages the resettlement programs office at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and serves as the state refugee coordinator. “They have also given newcomers the opportunity to build a strong foundation in Marshall by providing an opportunity for them to be good employees even though they may not have a formal employment history.”

King presented the award to Salah on behalf of Commissioner Emily Piper, who was unable make it down to Marshall on Thursday.

The Civic Leadership Award recognizes “individuals who have had refugee status who are outstanding leaders in their community.” Mu received this award. King said when refugees are able to reach their full potential, “we all benefit. They are able to contribute to their community. Today’s young refugees, refugees that you serve in this school are tomorrow’s workforce, business owners and civic leaders.”

Mu is from Burma/Myanmar and he and his family have lived in Marshall for about four years. This is his second year as parent-student connector. He helps 100 families. “He recently completed a rigorous translation course,” said King, which “better enabled him to bridge the communication gap within the greater Marshall community.”

King said Mu helps Marshall families understand the policies and procedures of the school system.

James Gagner, Park Side assistant principal, attended the ceremony as did Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and many of Mu’s co-workers at Park Side.

The staff, particularly the English Learners staff, eyes lit up when Gagner told them about the ceremony, he said.

“Hsa really cares about his families and he really cares about people,” he said. “We couldn’t be more pleased and happy for him. He’s a great guy.”

Mu helped Ron Skjong, the Marshall Karen Organization program manager, organize a cultural event to celebrate diversity this summer during Marshall’s annual Sounds of Summer festival where all cultural backgrounds were welcome. Skjong nominated Mu for the award.

“I nominated him because of his dedication to his family, his community and his sense of doing what’s right for anyone,” Skjong said. “He has worked hard to improve his language skills, his knowledge of this country and does it all for the betterment of everyone. All of us would be wise to listen to him and follow his example of a hard working person who believes strongly in inclusiveness.”

Mu said Marshall is a small community, but “no matter where you live, there are a lot of things you can do. We dream big, we work hard and together we make a difference for our community.”

The third category is the Youth Leadership Award which recognizes youth who have had refugee status, or are the children of refugees, who are young leaders in their community. There were no awardees in Marshall for this award. This is the first year of the awards.

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