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Passport to Prosperity Honorees

Posted August 24, 2012 in Web Exclusives

The Iowa International Center is honoring four amazing Iowans Saturday, September 22 at Passport to Prosperity http://iowainternationalcenter.org/programs/passport-2012-draft/.  The unique event honors immigrants and refugees who have chosen to make Iowa their home, and their contributions to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our community are most worthy.  This 2012 honorees are:

Hicham Sibouih
Hicham Sibouih was born and raised in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.  Hicham dedicated his studies to law and international relations, as one of top of his class. After graduating, he strayed from pursuing a legal or political career and instead took a position as a school teacher.It was in this position that he truly began his passion for helping others, as he became a father figure to his students always going beyond the subject matter to teach them life lessons, earning the respect of students, parents and colleagues alike. In 2006, he decided to take this work further by opening “Nadi Nour” a club targeting at-risk youth in the sister-city of Sale. In 2007, Hicham and his wife, Christina, decided to move to Iowa to be closer to her family. Starting his career from scratch and beginning with very minimal English skills, he sought to continue his passion for service by volunteering with the Iowa International Center, becoming a Mentor with the Des Moines Public Schools and teaching work-readiness courses at DMACC. In early 2009, He began his work with refugees as a volunteer. Immediately he became committed to helping these new and recent arrivals in their adjustment to life in Iowa, devoting his free time to so many who “fell through the cracks” of system. By the end of that year, Hicham became a full-time Case Manager at Lutheran Services of Iowa, later moving to Catholic Charities.

Officer Phoukham Tran
Phoukham Tran was born in Vientiane, Laos.  He and Chalouaiphone, who would later become his wife, were classmates in high school at Lycee De Vientiane.  They handled their school work, along with work in the fields.  It was hard but they continued to take on additional challenges.  Following high school both attended medical school for three years before making the decision to flee Laos.  They crossed the Mekong River into Thailand where they spent eight months in a refugee camp.  They arrived in the U.S. in 1980.  Unable to speak English, Phoukham went to work in a hospital as a dish washer.   He took ESL classes at every opportunity and set his sights on becoming a police officer.  In order to pass the exam for the police academy his English had to be good.  He didn’t pass the exam for entrance the first time, or the second or the third because he needed more English.  But he persevered, taking ESL classes until his English improved and he passed.

Officer Tran has played an important role in protecting and serving the Des Moines community.  As an Asian officer, he helped to build positive law enforcement interaction between the police department and the Asian community.  Officer Tran was able to facilitate communication because of his language skills; he is tri-lingual, speaking not only Laotian but also Vietnamese and, of course, English.  For almost thirty years, Officer Tran performed his duties as a police officer, earning the praise and gratitude of the people he protected.

On August 19, 2011 Officer Tran was directing traffic at the Iowa State Fair.  He advised a group of people to wait before crossing the street until he could assure their safety.  As he was making his way into the street to stop traffic, he was struck by a driver speeding in a 3-ton pick-up.  Officer Tran’s life changed abruptly.  Indeed, his life hung because of the seriousness of the injuries.   But Officer Tran possesses a spirit of perseverance that was not changed by the accident. As Chief of Police Judy Bradshaw wrote, “You have endured one of the most demanding recoveries I have ever witnessed and your courage and strength to push forward is remarkable.”

Dr. Rizwan Shah
Dr. Rizwan Shah has been redefining what is possible from a very early age.  Born in Rawalpindi Pakistan, one of five girls and one boy, Dr. Shah graduated from Medical School, at Punjab University, at the age of 22.  It was the 1960’s in Pakistan, a time when girls and women were typically not attending university, let alone medical school.  Her mother had not been permitted to go to school past the fourth grade “because she was a girl.” Fortunately for Dr. Shaw, her parents were very supportive of her continued education.

Dr. Shah arrived in the U.S. in 1968, in Boston, where her husband was training as a family practice physician.  Dr. Shah, who had been performing surgeries in Pakistan, was told she would not be allowed to perform surgeries in the U.S.,”because she was a woman.”  She was warned, “If one patient dies on the table your career is over.”

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s in the U.S. there was virtually no acknowledgment that children were being sexually abused.  Dr. Shah observed a three year old child brought into the ER, a little boy who had been sexually abused.  No one was responding to his needs.  Instead, he was re-traumatized as he watched victims of gunshot wounds and heart attacks being treated.  It was a turning point.  Dr. Shah became one of only five pediatricians in the United States specializing in the treatment of sexually abused children.  She not only developed clinics to treat the children, she also had to educate doctors, lawyers and counselors about this tragic issue, the existence of which had been denied.

Sachiko Murphy
In 1985 Sachiko Tamura Murphy arrived in Des Moines, lowa to serve one year as a high school exchange teacher from Kofu, Japan to teach the Japanese language and culture to students at Central Campus in Des Moines. Fortunately for Des Moines, the state of lowa, and communities in the US and Japan, she decided to stay.

Early in her career as a high school teacher of Japanese, Sachiko voluntarily developed a program for elementary students to learn a little about the Japanese language and culture. She escorted Japanese foreign exchange students to elementary schools to introduce students to calligraphy, Japanese language, origami, kabuki, and other art forms.

ln addition, Sachiko developed an elementary curriculum for teaching Japanese that was used in Heartland Area Education Agency’s Summer Language lnstitute. Heartland’s Chinese curriculum was developed using this Japanese curriculum as a model. This curriculum model was also shared with teachers across the country when Sachiko presented it to teachers attending the American Council of Têachers of Foreign Languages Conference in San Antonio, Texas in 1997.

Her volunteer work began to expand beyond the field of education when she became involved in the many community projects and events.  For the last 10 years, Sachiko has arranged for Des Moines students to accompany her on a visit to Japan. She has created an exchange program whereby when Des Moines students are in Japan they live in homes hosted by Japanese families and when Japanese students are in Des Moines they live in homes hosted by Des Moines families .

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