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Armenian refugee/former ND resident-turned-human-rights activist to present at ‘Building Bridges’ conference March 27-28 in Fargo

FARGO, ND, Feb. 16, 2018 – Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, an internationally known human-rights activist

whose family moved to North Dakota as Armenian refugees when she was 14, will be one of four keynote

speakers at this year’s “Building Bridges: Strengthening Partnerships for Stronger Foundations” conference

March 27-28 at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

The conference, sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, is geared toward educators, service

providers, community leaders and anyone else who works with the local refugee population.

Turcotte is a lecturer, lawyer and city councilwoman in her community of Westbrook, Maine. In 2012, she

published a book, “Nowhere, a Story of Exile,” which she wrote at age 14 as her family settled in North Dakota

as refugees in the early ’90s. The book is based on the childhood diaries she kept as her family was fleeing Baku,

Azerbaijan, and during their years in Armenia. Today, Turcotte speaks worldwide on genocide prevention,

refugee issues, international law and human rights.

She will be joined by three other keynote speakers:

•Amber Elizabeth Gray, national certified counselor, is an internationally recognized expert in refugee

mental health and torture treatment. She provides training and consultation nationally and internationally

on clinical treatment and program development for survivors of trauma secondary to torture, war,

combat, trafficking, organized violence and natural disaster.

•Jaylani Hussein is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota chapter.

Hussein has presented on the Somali culture to diverse organizations across the United States. He

specializes in urban planning, community development, youth development (with more than eight years

in working in juvenile centers for court-adjudicated youth), legal and civil rights. He received the 2015

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits annual "Visionary Leader" Award.

•Pindie Stephen, who served as the Senior Migrant Training Specialist and Integration Focal Point with

the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental United Nations organization

that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants.

Before retiring in 2018, Stephen had over 25 years of experience in resettlement, cross-cultural training,

curriculum development and training of trainers. In 2017 alone, IOM implemented over 30 migrant

training projects in over 60 countries globally, with significant activity in the Middle East, Philippines,

Nepal, Kenya and Turkey.

In addition to these keynotes, “Building Bridges” will cover a variety of timely and useful topics:

•An overview of refugee resettlement in MN, ND, and SD including state-specific trends, challenges and


• A panel on working with bi-lingual students that includes Leah Juelke, North Dakota Teacher of the Year,

ELL teacher at Fargo South, and originator of the “Journey to America” writing project that resulted in 31

South students’ stories being published in the book, “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from

A Fargo High School”;

•A session on understanding the challenges and opportunities facing Muslim communities in our current

political climate;

• Stories from a former teen-age refugee;

• Fair-housing information;

• Health-care challenges for New Americans:

• The role of race in our society;

• Refugee mental-health;

• Information on accommodating New Americans with disabilities.

To learn more, please go to Register before March 10 for the early-bird

discount. This conference is eligible for 1 graduate workshop credit as well as continuing education units.


Our Impact This Year

  • People received help with immigration-related services


  • Problem gamblers who found help


  • Hours of training provided by Growing Futures to early childhood workforce


  • Seniors provided with companionship in North Dakota


© 2018 Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

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