Virginia Changemakers
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New Virginians

Recent estimates place the number of foreign-born Virginians at just under one million, or about one in every eight people in the state. The composite portrait of Virginia is becoming more complex, challenging an older, simpler understanding of what it means to be a Virginian. Whether our roots in the state go back ten thousand years, ten generations, or ten weeks, we must create the future of the commonwealth together. New Virginians: 1619–2019 & Beyond explores the historical and continuous journey toward the ideals of America and seeks to foster an honest discussion about the immigrant and refugee experience and Virginia's increasing diversity. Produced jointly by the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities, the exhibition highlights the changing demographics of the commonwealth on the eve of the 2020 federal census through a series of interviews with first-generation immigrants and refugees who arrived in Virginia after 1976. The interviews reveal the complexity of the experience for people representing a wide range of personal backgrounds, experiences, ages, and countries of origin—Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. To complement the videos, the exhibition includes objects that have special meaning for the interviewees.

Click each name below to learn more about each New Virginian and watch video excerpts from their interview.

New Virginians is a Legacy Project of the American Evolution, 2019 Commemoration.

Karla Almendarez-Ramos


A native of Honduras, KarlaAlmendarez-Ramosis human services coordinator and manager of the Office of Multicultural Affairs for the City of Richmond.

Dareen and Ahmed Aloudeh


Natives of Damascus and Aleppo, Dareen and Ahmed Aloudeh fled the war in Syria after their home and Ahmed's tailoring business were destroyed in 2012.

Seyoum Berhe


A native of Ethiopia, Seyoum Berhe is currently the state refugee resettlement coordinator with Virginia's Office of Newcomer Services.

Isabel Castillo


A native of Mexico, Isabel Castilloreceived an honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco for her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants'…

Chandra Chhetri


A native of Bhutan, Chandra Chhetriworks in service to other refugees as school liaison with Commonwealth Charities in Richmond.

Bol Gai Deng


A native of Sudan,Bol Gai Dengis currently running for president of South Sudan.

Julia Garcia


A native of Bolivia, Julia Garciais a leader in the preservation of her native Quechua language and Bolivian folk traditions, especially dance.

Jose Francisco Garcia


A native of El Salvador,Jose Francisco Garciais currently a graduate student at Virginia Tech's Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension…

Farideh Goldin


A native of Iran,Farideh Goldinis the author of Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile and Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman.

Elizabeth Guzman


A native of Peru, Elizabeth Guzmancurrently represents the 31st District (Prince William and Fauquier Counties) in Virginia's House of Delegates.

Mohammad Hassanzada


A native of Afghanistan,Mohammad Hassanzadais the owner of Tribal Rug Gallery in Roanoke.

Cecilia Hernandez-Pena


A native of Mexico,Cecilia Hernandez-Pena she serves on the board of Dos Santos, which provides a range of community services.

Xang Mimi Ho


A native of Laos,Xang Mimi Howorks, teaches, and travels internationally as a professional photographer.

Kika Husejnovic


A native of Bosnia, Kika Husejnovic has worked as a refugee resettlement coordinator with Richmond office of Church World Services for the past 17…

Sally Imran


A native of Iraq, Sally Imran is currently a student at Blue Ridge Community College, working two full-time jobs.

Solomon Isekeije


A native of Nigeria,Solomon Isekeijeis currently the director of the Division of Fine Arts at Norfolk State.

Kyung Jun


A native of South Korea,Kyung Jun earned a degree in cosmetology and is a leader in the Korean community in Northern Virginia.

Patience Kamau


A native of Kenya, PatienceKamauis a member of the staff at the University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

Pryalal Karmarkar


A native of Bangladesh,Pryalal Karmarkar is co-founder of Prio Bangla, a major cultural arts festival in Northern Virginia.

Baraka Kasongo


A native of Rwanda,Baraka Kasongo is a lieutenant with the Roanoke City Fire Department and the founder of Volatia Language Network, which provides…

Aliaa Khidr


A native of Egypt, Aliaa Khidrteaches Arabic at the University of Virginia andco-founded a series of programs introducing Islam and Qur'an to the…

Nhi Le


A native of Vietnam, Nhi Le is the founder of aVietnamese literary society and center for the preservation of Vietnamese culture in Northern Virginia.

Chris Little


A native of Ireland, Chris Little co-founded a successful software and human resource consulting company.

Dr. Juan Montero


A native of the Philippines, Dr. Juan Montero is the founder of the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic and Montero Medical Missions.

Jacques Mushagasha


A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jacques Mushagasha is the founder and current president of the Alliance for Good Government and Peace in…

Gankhuyag (Ganna) Natsag


A native of Mongolia, Gankhuyag (Ganna) Natsag is world renowned as a master of the ancient Buddhist ritual known as Tsam.

Rasheed Qambari


A native of Kurdish Iraq, Rasheed Qambari, owns a carpet-cleaning business in Harrisonburg.

Atif Qarni


A native of Pakistan, Atif Qarni is currently the secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pedro Sanchez and Loida Tema


Natives of Mexico and Guatemala, Pedro builds and repairspoultry shipping crates on Eastern Shore, and Loida is raising their four children.

Zhiyi (Joycee) Wang


A native of China, Zhiyi (Joycee) Wang is a recipient of the Fairfax County 2018 Student Peace Award.

David Weir


A native of Northern Ireland, David Weir works as a baker in Reston.

Elena Zemmel


A native of Tajikistan, Elena Zemmel works at University of Virginia in Charlottesville.