When Rawhi Said was two years old, he and his family came to Minnesota as refugees from their native Bosnia. “This state and this community have really given me and my family a lot,” he says.
“So many folks helped us when we first arrived, that it only felt right that I was able to pay it forward.”
In 2016 Rawhi began working as a community health worker for the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA), an organization that provides assistance for refugees and immigrants. Two years later, IMAA tasked Rawhi with creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program.
They wanted to take that organizational and experiential knowledge and create something that could be shared “in a way that would benefit this community and teach each other about each other.”
In 2020, as the pandemic deepened, more students transitioned to online learning, and many people began working from home. This exposed the depths of the digital divide in Rawhi’s community. Rawhi responded with a Whole Family Systems program, working with families to understand and navigate their digital needs.
With the help of First Alliance, one of IMAA’s partners, and some funding through the state, Rawhi has been able to provide free internet for over 140 families in Olmsted and Winona Counties.
“If that’s how big a need there was in rural Minnesota, can you imagine the entire state?” he asks. “We think of internet access as a luxury,” says Rawhi. “As much as my water, garbage, or electricity, the internet is a utility.”
Whether helping people see things from a new perspective, or working to make the internet accessible to everyone, serving as a Commissioner for the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission, Rawhi’s work centers around equity.
“Providing the opportunity to have a fair and equal playing field — that’s where my passion lies,” he says.
Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards recognize the significant impact four honorees have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.
Meet the Other Heroes: