The Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission advocates for the immigrant and refugee communities of the City of Denver. They connect communities with allies, stakeholders and resources in Denver and provide valuable community context and input to policy makers. The Commission engages communities in an integrative and meaningful way and provides education by raising awareness about resources that will make their integration into the Denver community constructive.
ROLE OF THE COMMISSION: To develop collaborative and partnership potential between Denver’s immigrant and refugee communities and the City & County of Denver and to identify and impact mutual community challenges and opportunities.
Third Thursday of each month from 6:00pm-7:30pm. Please note: DIRC's November and December meetings are cancelled.
The Spring Institute
1373 Grant St.
Denver, CO 80203
Note: Commission meetings are open to the public and the commission welcomes public comment. The first agenda item for every meeting is reserved for public comment. 2-5 minutes maximum depending on number of speakers.
Victoria Aguilar who was appointed to the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission in April 2015 also serves as the Co-Chair for the DIRC.
Victoria was born and raised in Denver and currently resides in and works for the City and County of Denver. Victoria earned her degree in Practical Theology from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas.
While in college, Victoria spearheaded several initiatives that impacted the immigrant community such as Mi Familia Vota! and Ya Basta!
Victoria continues to advocate on immigrant-related issues within the city of Denver and firmly believes in the positive contribution that immigrants bring to our great city. More recently Victoria was selected as a fellow for the Government Entrepreneur Leadership Accelerator and has successfully coordinated community listening sessions and educational campaigns for the Denver Department of Human Services.
Farduus Y. Ahmed has more than 8 years of experience working with refugees and immigrant communities. She is Somali community Navigator and office manager at Colorado African Organization (CAO) that exist to support Colorado’s refugees, immigrant, and asylum-seeking populations for self -sufficient and local integration in their new home Colorado.
She is a Professional certified interpreter/translator who speaks different languages (Somali and English) and provides services for courtrooms, hospitals, conferences, schools, and social services and is also a radio host at EDUCA radio in Denver.
Farduus enjoys participating in community volunteer activities and currently serves as Denver Police Department Chief’s Community Advisory Board member and a member of Refugee Action Coalition of Colorado (RACC)’s committee.
She received the Immigrant Liberty Award of the year in 2017 for outstanding service to the immigrant community.
She holds a bachelor’s degree of Science in Business Administration and is currently working towards a Master of Social Work degree to be completed in spring of 2019 from the University of Denver.
Her interests include serving refugees and immigrants as well as human rights in a global setting. She loves being active and believes in a healthy lifestyle. She engages elderly refugees and communities in activities targeting healthy lifestyles.
Maytham is “a Transplant Medicine RN, Interpreter/Translator, a Commissioner on the Denver Refugee and Immigrant Commission, and an award-winning organizer and activist.
He attended The College of Veterinary Medicine in Mosul, Iraq. He also worked for the U.S. Department of Defense in Iraq, from 2005 to 2008, as a Combat Interpreter. Maytham helped establish, train, and advise Armored Units within the new Iraqi Army.
Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, he moved to the U.S. in 2008 and lived in Colorado since then.
Maytham graduated with Honors from the University of Colorado College of Nursing, Anschutz Medical Campus, where he also conducted research on the topic of refugees’ health.
He is currently working at the University of Colorado Hospital while also serving his community through DRIVE Project, where the mission is to empower refugees and immigrants to become their own advocates through civic engagement.
Fran Campbell is a Denver native born to Filipino immigrants. She has been an active volunteer, advisor, and leader in the Denver APIA community for almost thirty years. Her focus has been on developing programs for APIA youth; removing the stigma of mental health in the APIA community; and acting as a voice for the community to municipal and state agencies.
Currently, Fran is Senior Clinical Support at Jefferson Center for Mental Health, serving on the Cultural Competency Task Force as APIA Community Liaison. Fran is also a Mental Health First Aid Instructor/Trainer.
Pilar Castro-Reino recently retired from the Denver Public Library, where she managed several branches as well as immigrant services for the system. Pilar earned her GED, then proceeded to earn her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts, and a B.A. in Spanish. She graduated with her MLS from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Born in Puerto Rico, she first joined the Denver Public Library focusing on providing customer services and meeting the needs of Spanish speaking populations. She has loved learning and leading programming for our increasingly ethnically diverse populations in Denver.
Nina DiSalvo is a consultant with Towards Justice, an organization she led for four and a half years, from infancy to national recognition as a strategic force in workplace justice advocacy. Towards Justice uses litigation, communications and advocacy to upend long-standing practices that reduce worker bargaining power and calcify economic inequality.
Nina came to Towards Justice in 2014 from Governor Cuomo’s administration in New York State, where she worked to create the New York State Office for New Americans, the Empire State Fellows Program, and the Regional Economic Development Councils. Prior to joining New York State government, Nina was a lawyer with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, a research fellow with human rights organizations in Argentina, and a high school teacher in rural Puerto Rico.
Nina is fluent in Spanish and English, and grew up between upstate New York, Puerto Rico, and the Turks and Caicos islands. Nina's personal experience moving to a new country at age 9 and later to Puerto Rico at age 12 gave her a rich, unglamorous understanding of how hard it is to integrate into a new society with unfamiliar institutions, requirements, and expectations. Nina received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, and her Bachelor of Arts in government and Latin American Studies from Wesleyan University. Nina is admitted to practice law in New York and Colorado.
Bio coming soon
Jennifer Gueddiche is currently employed with the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning as Director of Programs. With over 18 years of experience working in refugee resettlement in the Denver metro area, Gueddiche has developed several high-quality training programs for refugee adults and youth. For the past 14 years, she has served as the Executive Director for the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s African Community Center. In this capacity, she developed expertise in working with numerous refugee populations and creating culturally competent programming that empowers people and strengthens new communities. Jennifer has travelled extensively and has lived in France and Tunisia. She has a BA in Political Science from Purdue University and an MA in International Studies from the University of Denver.
Yusuf Hassan is a Manager at Saint Joseph Hospital, SCL Health System. Yusuf has over 6 years of professional Finance and Corporate experience. He has worked as an Assistant Vice President of the largest private bank in Colorado. In addition, he has done Financial Consulting work for Kaiser Permanente.
Yusuf migrated from Ethiopia when he was in middle school. He comes from a family and mentors that preached serving others. That has influenced Yusuf to be passionate about transforming the lives of others in his community.
In addition to serving on Colorado Black Health Collaborative board, Yusuf is a founder and President of Colorado Oromo Youth Advocate and Association (COYAA), a mentorship program that supports and advocates for immigrant Oromo Youth. He is also a past board member and treasurer of the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA), and Academy of Finance Program at Denver South High School. Yusuf also enjoys volunteering his time with youth serving organizations such as Junior Achievements and Goodwill Youth Program.
Yusuf is a class of 2005 Daniels Fund Scholar. He received bachelor’s degree in Finance and International Business from the University of Denver (DU). Currently, he’s enrolled in MBA--Healthcare Leadership Program at Regis University.
Yusuf believes in helping the immigrants thrive not just survive. He’s especially passionate about helping the immigrant youths realize and take full advantage of the opportunities that are available in this country.
At an early age, Brenda moved with her family from Mexico to India. When she turned 11, Brenda left India and moved to South Carolina. Here, confronted with forces of American assimilation, Brenda formed the beginnings of her passion of social justice and advocacy.
Brenda pursued an interdisciplinary degree at Hampshire College that focused on critical race theory, sociology, and immigrant diaspora studies. During her time at Hampshire, Brenda gained the skills and knowledge to navigate how systems silence and delineate marginalize communities. Her passion to create transformative spaces for individuals led to work for 5 years creating unique integration programs for refugee and immigrant youth, become a peer recovery coach, and a counselor and advocate survivors and victims of domestic violence.
Today, Brenda continuously pulls from personal, professional, and academic experiences to facilitate these conversations.
Diana Higuera is the Executive Director of the Aurora Welcome Center where she oversees all aspects of the development of the Aurora Welcome Center as a shared space for a mix of immigrant and refugee serving entities.
Diana was born in Venezuela and immigrated to the U.S. in 2005. She received her MA in International and Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver and holds a BA in Mass Communication and a BS in Business Administration from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas.
Toye Idowu is a Software Engineering Consultant for Kenzan, a small consulting firm in Denver. In addition Toye has part in multiple projects that help bring the immigrant community together. He is co-organizer of the Denver International Heritage Soccer Tournament, a mini-World Cup style tournament that started in 2011 to promote outreach and unity in the Denver metro area through the game of soccer. Toye is the host of the popular AfrikLounge Show which catered to African diaspora. He is also board member of UT-A(Us Together Achieve), a non-profit organization which helps mentor and support first generation college graduates.
Toye joined the commission to help make Denver a place immigrants feel welcomed and offer his ideas and opinion on policies passed in the city.
Nhu-Minh Le is the Director of Victim Assistance at the Asian Pacific Development Center.
Le joined the commission to provide a voice to those who are consistently under-represented in our communities. Nhu-Minh wants to represent members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities as well as immigrants and refugees from all over the world who are being demonized and targeted by those in power. She wants to offer a perspective only held by people like herself who have experienced the hardship of uprooting family in pursuit of a better life.
Outside of work and the commission, Nhu-Minh is constantly seeking opportunities to challenge herself both mentally and physically. Whether in the gym, on the trail, or at home, she wants to know that she is the most well-rounded, educated and active person possible, conquering each challenge with motivation and vigor. Le seeks to understand her community and to help shape it in the future, fostering the ideal of self-motivation and providing equal opportunities for all.
Grazyna Lewkowicz is a financial analyst at Arrow Electronics, Inc. where she focuses on project & financial analysis.
Lewkowicz joined DIRC to contribute her time and advice to the immigrant/refugee community in the Denver Metro area. She also wants to bring the Polish immigrant community closer to other immigrant/refugee communities.
In her spare time, Grazyna loves to travel and explore new places, cultures, and meet new people. She enjoys either domestic or international destinations and her travel list is constantly growing. She also enjoys spending time outside hiking mountains, paddle boarding, and just being active in general. Her real passion is in photography and finding new angles for common, usual things & items. Grazyna loves a good adrenaline rush and seldom says NO to bungee jumping, sky diving, or scuba diving.
Leslie Mongin currently serves as a program coordinator with the Denver Police Department (DPD), focused on community engagement and connecting DPD with all of Denver’s residents.
From 2007-2012, Mongin advocated for refugee policy and programs with Church World Service and Refugee Council USA in Washington, DC. More recently, she worked with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand on the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (resettlement), on funding assistance for NGOs supporting refugees in East Asia, and monitoring protection of refugees and asylum seekers by host governments in the region.
Leslie joined the Commission to contribute her energy and time in making Denver more welcoming and inclusive to folks from all immigrant and refugee backgrounds.
Outside of work, she relishes meeting new people, traveling down the street and around the world, and tasting new food. She loves sharing time with old friends, biking, hiking, live music, and snowboarding.
Temi Osifodunrin is the National Director of Marketing & Advertising for Donut Holdings Inc. DBA LaMar's Donuts. He also heads their Franchise Development Sales Department.
Temi is also an organizer of the Denver International Heritage soccer tournament, a mini-World Cup style tournament he started in 2011 to promote outreach and unity in the local Denver metro area through the game of soccer. The annual soccer tournament is an opportunity for ethnic communities in Colorado to gather and interact with each other around the beautiful game of soccer.
Temi was born in Denver, Colorado to immigrant parents. He attended Metropolitan State University of Denver where he studied Marketing & Business Administration.
Hamid Ran is an enrollment and eligibility specialist at Connect for Health Colorado where he gathers and reviews client data to determine if they are eligible for Health Colorado First or Premium Tax Credit.
Hamid came to the US as a refugee and now feels it's time to give back to the refugee population. He hopes he can be a voice for the refugee community and find a way to address their concerns.
Outside of work, he’s a reader, a photographer, a writer, a hiker, a camper, and a traveler.
Chiara Subhas is a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Downtown Denver; however, Chiara’s background is in International relations/human rights and refugee work.
Subhas is a longtime Colorado Resident and has worked with the refugee and immigrant community over the years. Her parents came to the USA as adults from Italy and India which has always made her a supporter of immigrant rights.
Outside of work, Chiara spends a lot of time in the outdoors, skiing, running, biking, and rafting. She also travels extensively and is involved with dog rescue (she has 3 dogs of her own).
For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Jamie Torres, DIRC Liaison
Are you interested in joining the Immigrant & Refugee Commission? Follow the below steps.
Denver 311 Help Center Call 3-1-1
Outside Denver Call 720-913-1311
TTY Service: 720-913-8479