Hadidja Nyiransekuye, an assistant professor of social work in UNT's College of Health and Public Service, has won the prestigious Social Worker of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers that honors a member of the organization that exemplifies top-tier values and achievements.
Nyiransekuye, a former asylee from Rwanda and a survivor of genocide along with her four children, specializes in policy advocacy focusing on the refugee crisis that affects communities across the globe.
"I know what it feels like to not have a home," she says. "There are people who have helped me and opened their homes to me, and for that I am grateful. I owe it to humanity to do what I can to help others."
Nyiransekuye's research demonstrates the problems faced by refugees that are global issues, including acts of violence and loss of freedom. Her work also emphasizes the resiliency of refugees and their contributions to their adopted country of final resettlement.
"If we don't address these human rights violations, they will only continue," she says. "Ninety percent of these refugees have suffered from trauma and need the opportunity to heal and rebuild."
Nyiransekuye moved to Texas to work with refugees directly and provides her students at UNT a unique learning opportunity to acquire real-world experience in the field of social work, such as working hands-on with applicable cases within their interest.
"I continue to hear from my former students about how this work has impacted their lives," she says. "I learn as much from them as they do from me, and I am honored and humbled to have received this award."
In her next project, Nyiransekuye will work with survivors of genocide to document their experiences and produce a repository of their survival stories. She says that when trauma survivors are provided the opportunity to share their stories, it is a way for them to reconcile their experiences and begin to heal.