Senada Kadich poses with the resettlement team.
Senada Kadich (center; grey sweater) poses for a photo with the IRC in Tucson’s Resettlement team.
Photo: Nisha Datt for the IRC


Written by: Rula Ifteiha, Senior Program Officer, Communications

Senada Kadich, Director of the IRC in Tucson, joined our organization in 1999—just two years after the IRC in Tucson opened its doors. She has spent 25 years with the Tucson office and has held nearly every program-specific role, accepting her current role as the Director of the Tucson office in 2018. 

Across 25 years and various prominent and historical junctures, Senada has witnessed both tremendously heartening and exceedingly tumultuous moments. She is deeply cherished by her colleagues and clients of the past and present and has instrumentally grown and innovated the IRC in Tucson’s service model.  

Senada poses for photo with Resettlement Manager, Lucinda Stokes-Williams.

I met with Senada to celebrate her incredible dedication to the IRC’s Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration (RAI) department. Read her powerful reflections, beautifully coupled with heartwarming quotes from those who have worked closely with Senada over the years. 

Q: What innately comes tom ind as you reflect on your 25-year journey with the IRC?

When I started with the IRC, I was the 4th team member and joined after the office began receiving arrivals. I was hired as a bookkeeper/employment specialist. Back in my country, I worked as a bank director and accepted the position because I thought I would remain in bookkeeping—but that didn’t happen. 

My goal was to make my way back to the banking industry at some point. But then I found a new passion. I was helping refugees—people who were just like me, a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Economic Empowerment Manager, Katrina Martinez

The organization has grown so much—even when you examine our size on an office-by-office scale. I remember that, around 2018, the Tucson office had 30 people. Now, we have a staff size of over 70 people. 

It doesn’t feel like I’ve been with the IRC for 25 years. I can still see myself 25 years ago, starting here. The challenges keep life interesting, and learning how to adjust and achieve is incredible and fills me with pride.  

As one of my last contributions, I recently participated in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration’s (PRM) monitoring efforts. I used that opportunity to advocate for additional funding and resources. Effectively caring for clients requires a great deal more than checking off checkboxes. Each client has different needs, and delivering comprehensive care and services takes time. 

Faith Cooper during her visit to the IRC in Arizona's Glendale office location.

I’m retiring because I’m returning home to Bosnia and Herzegovina, something I’ve been planning for several years. If I could combine the U.S. and Bosnia, life would be perfect, but that’s sadly not possible. 

Q: Which historical moments stand out to you most?

September 11th is the first significant moment that comes to mind, and it was a difficult time—it was also the same year the survivors of the 1987 civil war in Sudan, known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, came to the United States to seek their freedom and safely build new futures for themselves. They were called the Lost Boys of Sudan because the 1987 civil war drove an estimated 20,000 young Sudanese boys from their families and villages in southern Sudan. Many were only six or seven years old and fled to Ethiopia (walking more than a thousand miles) to escape death or induction into the northern army. In 2001, 4,000 young Sudanese men came to the U.S., where the IRC helped hundreds of them resettle in cities nationwide. Tucson was always welcoming to refugees, so I remember them sharing that they felt very welcome.  

Beth Broome, Casework Supervisor

The Trump administration years also stand out. Some people left the office, and we didn’t have enough funding to hire new people. We were anxious about what would happen to the office and the clients who relied on us. We tried to offer clients comfort; they were understandably so anxious. That was when we began increasing our advocacy efforts.  

Barbara Franklin, former Development Supervisor

Q: What are your favorite memories with the IRC? 

My favorite memories are memories that I have with current and former clients. Sometimes, I go to the grocery store and hear, “Miss Senada!” I turn around, and I’m touched to see it’s a former client—those moments are always exciting.  

Aaron Rippenkroeger, Executive Director, IRC Arizona

I remember Somali Bantu refugees arrived in 2003. A couple of weeks ago, one man stopped by the office and requested to see me. He wasn’t sure if I would remember him, and he shared he was a really young boy when he arrived in 2003 as a Somali Bantu refugee. You know, it’s more challenging to remember kids because kids are constantly changing. However, I always remember their parents. He shared that he and his parents often spoke about me, and he recently met a couple of people from our office who told him I was working there. He told me he had to stop and say hello and thank me. It was such a special moment. 

Another story that comes to mind began when I was a case manager. I was helping a Somali family. The woman in the family had five children and was pregnant. I always talked to women to encourage them to continue pursuing their education. She told me that she never had the chance to continue her education. I told her she could return to school when she delivered her baby. I gave her information about the GED and other options. I didn’t see her for a while after. One day, she came back and was pregnant again, and she kept insisting that she would go back to school. A couple of years ago, she stopped by the office. I recognized her right away. In perfect English, she said, “I just came to tell you that I just completed my GED. My kids are grown now, and they help me. Now, I’m also thinking of taking classes at the community college.” I was so inspired by her!  

Lizbeth Gonzalez receiving COVID vaccination

Q: What advice do you have for colleagues at the IRC?

There is something that I always tell people—it's to do everything to the best of your knowledge. Respect and help each other and somehow, everything falls in place. 

Nicky Walker, Development Director IRC Arizona

Thank you for 25 years of remarkable service, Senada!