On September 15th the White House hosted “Welcoming Refugees: Honoring Refugee Integration and Refugee Voices,” a convening of refugee resettlement agencies, faith-based groups, local governments and refugee leaders to celebrate the social, cultural and economic contributions refugees make across the country. Over the past 40 years, the United States has welcomed more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities.
The event also honored nine refugee leaders representing welcoming communities across the nation. Among those honored was Binyam Gebrehewet, a former asylee from Eritrea who was resettled to Houston in 2006. Binyam was nominated by Alliance for Multicultural Community Services for his success as an entrepreneur and for his dedication to helping newly-arrived refugees succeed.
Fleeing religious persecution, Binyam left Eritrea and began his long journey to seek asylum in the United States. Shortly after his asylee status was approved, he was resettled to Houston. Once in Houston, Binyam took a $15,000 loan from the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services through the Refugee Micro-Enterprise Program to buy his first tow truck. Because of the success of his enterprise, he was able to repay his loan in full and purchase an eighteen-wheeler. By 2010, Binyam’s company was so successful that he was able to purchase a second truck, rent office space and employ two drivers. Today his company, Bag Transport, has six trucks and 21 employees. Most of his employees are former refugees who have made Houston their home.
In addition to running a successful transport company, Binyam works hard to give back to the community by ensuring that newly-arrived refugees have the same chance at self-sufficiency that he had. In 2015, Binyam’s company partnered with the Alliance to offer Commercial Driver’s License training courses to refugees and former refugees. Through his hands-on teaching approach, Binyam has helped more than 75 individuals receive their CDL licenses and gain full-time employment as commercial truck drivers, both statewide and nationwide. In addition, Binyam was recently appointed Alliance’s Director of Driver’s Education. By teaching behind-the-wheel driver education classes, Binyam helps refugees increase their employment opportunities and gain flexibility in scheduling appointments or attending classes. Binyam tirelessly to ensure that his students achieve their goal of obtaining a driver’s license. To date, he has helped more than 50 individuals become licensed drivers.