Right now, more people have been forced to flee their homes than ever before. From the crisis in Ukraine to climate shocks in East Africa, global instability is on the rise—while the right to seek refuge is in retreat.

Yet when refugees are welcomed, their influence on culture is immeasurable. Around the world, displaced people have, and continue to, shape policies, art, traditions, dreams and futures in ordinary—and extraordinary—ways.


1. Sifan Hassan, London Marathon winner


Sifan Hassan, London Marathon winner
Olympic champion, Sifan Hassan
Photo: Photo: Filip Bossuyt

In 2008, Hassan arrived in the Netherlands on her own as an asylum seeker from Ethiopia. The two-time Olympic champion claimed victory in her debut marathon in London in April in what has been dubbed one of the greatest running victories of all time.

2. Luka Modrić, football player.

Luka Modrić playing soccer
The “midfield maestro” started his professional soccer career in the parking lot of an internally-displaced persons camp.

The “midfield maestro” started his professional footballer career in the parking lot of an internally displaced persons camp. 
During the Croatian War of Independence, Modrić and his family were forced to flee their home. They eventually settled in Zadar, Croatia, where Modrić began playing soccer and developed the skills that have made him into one of the best midfielders in the world.

3. Sepideh Moafi, actor

Sepideh Moafi, IRC Ambassador
Actor, singer, advocate: Sepideh Moafi

Sepideh was born in a refugee camp in Germany after her parents fled Iran. Her family eventually settled in the United States. Today, she is an Iranian-American actor, a singer, an advocate for refugee rights, and an IRC ambassador.

4. Naquetta Ricks, U.S. politician

Naquetta Ricks faces the camera
Naquetta Ricks is the first African immigrant to be elected to the Colorado legislature.

Representative Naquetta Ricks fled the civil war in Liberia when she was 13. She is the first African immigrant to be elected to the Colorado Legislature, and the first Liberian American to be elected to any state legislature. 

She works tirelessly to improve her community and champion the rights of immigrants and refugees.

5. Nelson, hair stylist

Nelson with a client in his hairdressing salon
This refugee and hairstylist’s dream was to open his own hair salon in Kampala.
Photo: Nichole Sobecki for the IRC

Nelson's dream was to open his own hair salon in Kampala, Uganda, after leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Through the FIND program, he was paired with a mentor who shared skills that enabled Nelson to expand his barber shop into a unisex salon that serves his new community.

6. Judith Kerr, children’s book author

Judith Kerr
Children's author Judith Kerr
Photo: Photo: Christoph Rieger

The Tiger Who Came to Tea author,Judith Kerr, was a refugee in Britain after fleeing Nazi Germany with her family at the age of nine. She went on to pen some of the country’s favourite children’s books, including the Mog series.

7. Sabah*, student

Sabah* decided to pursue her education, in spite of pressure to make an early marriage.
Photo: Dalia Khamissy for the IRC

Sabah is a Syrian refugee who confronted her fiancé’s belief that women should not be educated after marriage. 

She told her parents and together they called off the marriage so she could resume her education. After school she wants to mentor other refugees with the IRC in Lebanon.

*name changed for client’s safety

8. Nataliia, storyteller

Nataliia faces the camera
Ukrainian refugee Nataliia tells her story through theater.
Photo: Sumaya Agha for the IRC

Nataliia, tells the story of the war in Ukraine through theatre in Athens, Greece.

She's part of a theatre production about the Ukrainian war. With support from the IRC, she plans to open her own public speaking business.

Learn 4 ways you can help welcome refugees on World Refugee Day 2023 and beyond.