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DU's refugee culinary program gets a visit from delegates from around the world

The delegation is learning about the school's Ready for American Hospitality program to help address refugee resettlement issues

DENVER — The University of Denver's (DU) Ready for American Hospitality (RAH) program is getting international attention.

A group of delegates from the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State and Refugee Council USA visited the DU campus Wednesday to learn more about the RAH program. It pairs refugees with students from DU’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, allowing them to learn culinary skills and get experience working in the food service industry. 

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“They’re being introduced to what it’s like to work in the U.S.,” said RAH program director Anthony Cherwinski. “So really general work skills that we’re able to translate through working in the hospitality industry, working in the kitchen, working in customer service.”

The department collaborates with the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s African Community Center. Cherwinski said with this program, both refugees and students can engage by increasing their cultural intelligence and their cultural awareness.

Credit: Byron Reed

“University students get to directly engage with people whom they’re going to be working with as they go out into the workforce,” Cherwinski said. “Just engaging with that is a huge support, not just for their workforce development and integration into one industry, but there are skills that can translate and transcend across any industry that they take their next steps in.”

Credit: Byron Reed

The visit of about 30 delegates from 15 countries is part of a series of Denver-based workshops. The meetings are part of the larger Working Group on Resettlement event that’s focusing on refugee resettlement issues.

“Programs like this are critical,” said the state department’s Larry Bartlett. “The refugees, when they’re brought to the U.S., are given an opportunity to make a new life, but they also have responsibility to really succeed.”

Bartlett is the department’s director of the resettlement program for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration out of Washington, D.C. He said they decided to do the workshop in Denver because the city is a high-producing and very successful resettlement site.

Credit: Byron Reed

“Refugees are the biggest asset into the whole process, but we just need to give them some additional tools and benefits to help them succeed,” Bartlett said. “They’re in really unfortunate circumstances, they’ve not fled their country for economic opportunity, they’ve fled for their lives.”

Mohamad Al Nouri came to the U.S. from Egypt after his parents moved their family out of war-torn Syria in 2012.

Credit: Byron Reed
Ready for American Hospitality (RAH) graduate Mohmad Al Nouri shares his experiences with United Nation's delegates and government leaders.

“When the war started in Syria, my parents decided to leave the country because of safety reasons,” Al Nouri said. “In 2017, we had got the opportunity to move to the United States.”

Al Nouri enrolled in the RAH program later that year and said the experience at DU was a great opportunity. The program helped Al Nouri and his family open a Syrian restaurant in the Mango House food court at 10180 East Colfax in Aurora.

“It was tough, but at the same time, it was a good opportunity to learn,” Al Nouri said. “[The program] was a huge help to me.”

Credit: Byron Reed

The RAH program has about 10 to 15 refugee students in each class. Cherwinski said their previous class was 100% Afghan and, in the future, he suspects the class might be 100% Ukrainian.

“It’s a constant reminder how strong human beings are,” Cherwinski said. “And a constant reminder of the reality of the challenges that people face.”

 For more information about RAH, click here.

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