Thousands of Ukrainian refugees could secure asylum and work in South Dakota thanks to a new effort launched by community and private sector leaders. Dream Design International President Hani Shafai is championing the launch of Freedom’s Haven for New Americans’ Workforce in the Rapid City region through a $50,000 matching donation.

A concert is being held at Calvary Lutheran Church on Friday, Nov. 4, to share more information and accept donations from the public. Funds raised will go toward defraying costs for local sponsors who will ensure refugees have housing and support.

The effort was first discussed in July at a meeting with business leaders, Gov. Noem’s office, and Congressional delegation representatives in Nemo, SD. Shafai, a Gaza Strip native who came to South Dakota in the 1980s, attended the meeting and saw the vision of how such a program would be mutually beneficial to refugees and the Rapid City community, which has a low labor participation rate and high number of open jobs.

“We had firsthand testimony from folks in Ukraine, religious leaders, community leaders, and professionals,” Shafai said. “Their story really makes a person think of the great things that we have in the United States and the great life we live.”

“A lot of them (Ukrainian refugees) have professional careers, are very highly educated and familiar with industries that exist within our state,” Shafai said.

The benefit concert on Nov. 4 will feature Calvin Jones, an international composer and South Dakota native who lived in Ukraine for 8 years. He and his wife fled the country when Russia attacked Kyiv in February. The concert begins at 7 p.m. MDT and donations will be accepted through a free will offering.

To donate to the New Americans fund, go to the South Dakota Community Foundation’s website:

Photos of the Ukraine war provided by Calvin Jones are below: