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  • Writer's pictureVeena

Building a Bridge

Flore Foundation is proud to award a grant to Experience Bridge, owned by Somali refugee, Mustafa

Nuur, who resettled in the United States in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Local businesses in Lancaster embrace newcomers through engagement with employees and customers alike. Last September, Atlanta-based Welcoming America recognized this small city with a population nearing sixty-thousand for their ability to create a community that embraces people no matter where they come from. Flore Foundation honors this achievement with this grant to Bridge, the for-profit business founded by Mustafa, who developed an online tool to employ refugees and overcome obstacles to building community.

Bridge owner, Mustafa, embodies courage and a belief in humanity that is contagious. His story depicts characteristics of perseverance and bravery that astound me. His family fled persecution in Somalia at the young age of 11 after his father was killed by the opposition during civil war. His mother and seven siblings found themselves in Dadaab, Kenya and spent the next eight years in a refugee camp there. In 2014, Mustafa and his family were finally resettled in the United States in Lancaster. New to America, Mustafa recognized early on a desire to become an active member of his community. At the time, growing tension intensified around refugee resettlement in the United States; however, Mustafa responded writing opinion pieces to quell misinformation and correct stereotypes.

“To truly live in a community, you need to create bonds.”

Faced with misconceptions about immigrants, Mustafa increased his engagement with people who told him refugees are not welcome in America. He discovered that through dialogue he easily befriended those who initially condemned migration. Enlightened by the outcome of personal engagement, Mustafa sought to create a for-profit social enterprise to promote culinary and social exchanges. He developed an online tool to book a meal hosted by a refugee family in order to try a new cuisine and get acquainted with people who initially seem different. In 2017 Mustafa took a chance participating in a business incubator program called “The Great Social Enterprise Pitch” sponsored by a Lancaster-based non-profit, Assets. Mustafa received the first-place prize for his idea to bridge the chasm between refugees and well-established community members.

“Once you hear somebody’s story, it’s going to be hard to hate them.”

Since opening, Bridge has hosted over 3,000 experiences. In Lancaster, locals book months in advance to enjoy a meal and captivating conversation a refugee family. Mustafa’s Experience Bridge is in high demand outside of Lancaster as well. In his effort to scale the business to meet demand as well as expand into other cities, Mustafa plans to develop training to ensure a standardized approach across experience host families. Training allows hosts to meet culinary quality standards and meet legal requirements. This business model realizes a multifaceted impact – it not only affords supplemental income for refugee families, but also encourages a cultural exchange and increases integration within a community. Flore Foundation is excited to advance business growth through this grant to Experience Bridge, "global, experienced local".

For more on Mustafa take a look at UNHCR:

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