When 14 year old former refugee, Ruhamma Zaheeb, moved to Saint John one of the first things she asked her School Settlement Worker was how she could volunteer in her new community. Just over one year later the teenager is receiving a Youth Peace Medallion from the YMCA. 

Ruhamma demonstrates the YMCA values of Peace through her long list of volunteer activities and advocacy for child and refugee rights.

“In my home country it`s a really big deal for girls to speak up,” Ruhamma said. “It really gave me the freedom to speak up for what I was passionate about and, what I thought was right, so that is what really shaped me into the person I am today.”

Having lived in Sri Lanka for four years as a refugee, Ruhamma has become passionate about being a voice for refugees. She delivered a speech at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sri Lanka advocating for refugees rights. Her personal experience taught her that there is a prejudice against refugees which inspired her to write the speech that would convey her message to the world.

“Refugees have not arrived from a different planet, they are the same humans as you and I,” Ruhamma said. “They deserve better treatment than what people give them right now and they deserve more respect.”

Ruhamma is also a member of the Youth Voice Committee of New Brunswick, a group of young students from across the province who speak up for children’s rights.

Locally, Ruhamma volunteers her time in many programs around the city. She is very involved in the Hillcrest Baptist Church, volunteering in the nursery, teaching Sunday school, and helping to organize the Caring Closet. She is a member of the Me to We program at Harbour view High School, and volunteers with Best Buddies, a program that creates friendships between the volunteers and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Next, Ruhamma said, she plans to start volunteering at the YMCA!

“Peace means being together to support each other,” the 14 year old explained. “United we stand, divided we fall. The right to be a normal human, the right to live, the right to express opinion, and the right to practice our faith is peace for me, and it helps to build a healthy and strong community. We need the unity and the love and support of each other.”

Ruhamma will receive her Peace Medallion on Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 at the Peace Breakfast held at the Delta at 7:30am. Click the button below to purchase tickets.