Founder’s Story - Selma Nouri

The Founder of RISE, Selma Nouri, pictured to the right of John Legere, the Chief Executive Officer of T-Mobile, at the T-Mobile Changemakers Conference in Seattle, Washington.

The Founder of RISE, Selma Nouri, pictured to the right of John Legere, the Chief Executive Officer of T-Mobile, at the T-Mobile Changemakers Conference in Seattle, Washington.

It all began with a photo. After seeing an image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee, whose lifeless body was found washed up on the Turkish shore, I knew that I had to do something to ease the suffering of the refugee population.

I had already been involved with the refugee community in my hometown, founding a Community Migrant group at my local library and hosting multiple donation fundraisers for the incoming refugees in my community. However, it was after writing a refugee health research paper, under the sponsorship of a public health professor at the University of Maryland, that I learned of the grave refugee mental health crisis in camps across Europe and the Middle East and realized that I was able to contribute to the support effort. For as long as I can remember, I have been enamored by music. The sound of a raspy voice and the pluck of bass guitar string never fail to draw me away from my realities and serve as an escape during moments of anger or grief. Music has shaped the person that I am today and has become my relentless passion, constantly drawing a sense of hope when my world can feel small. Refugees deserve to feel the hope and escape that I feel when singing and listening to music. This is why I established RISE, a nonprofit that delivers creative supplies and passion projects to refugee camps in order to instill passion and hope in the lives of those who have been stripped of it all and to alleviate the high rates of mental illness across refugee camps.

Although there is nothing we can do to bring back the innocent life of Alan Kurdi, we can save those who have been forgotten, left trapped in grim refugee camps with little means to survive. Children as young as ten years old are attempting suicide in refugee camps, and thousands of adults have been diagnosed with severe depressive disorder. Through RISE, I hope that we can curb the fatalities and rise in mental illness by establishing hope and humanity through passion and skill. Although the lives of refugees are constantly overwhelmed by grief and misfortune, through RISE, I believe that we can remind them that they have not lost everything.