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February 22, 2024

USA for UNHCR Announces Gene Dewey Refugee Award Winners

WASHINGTONFeb. 22, 2024 -- USA for UNHCR is pleased to announce Ntakamaze Nziyonvira and Paulinho Muzaliwa as Gene Dewey Refugee Award winners for their visionary leadership and extraordinary dedication to helping people forcibly displaced from their homes.

Nziyonvira is the Executive Director of CIYOTA, a refugee-led organization expanding access to education for refugees in Uganda. Muzaliwa is the founder of UNIDOS, a refugee-led organization using regenerative agriculture practices to help empower refugees at Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda.

The Gene Dewey Refugee Award, named in recognition of Arthur "Gene" Dewey, USA for UNHCR co-founder and former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, recognizes individuals who demonstrate visionary leadership and extraordinary dedication to helping people forcibly displaced.

Nziyonvira and Muzaliwa are refugees originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who found safety in Uganda.

Ntakamaze Nziyonvira (right), working with refugee students in a classroom in Uganda.

Nziyonvira helped found CIYOTA in 2005 to expand access to education for refugees living in Uganda. Nziyonvira's personal education journey inspired the founding of CIYOTA. As a child, he encountered challenges accessing quality education after fleeing the DRC in 1998. In addition to expanding educational access for refugees, CIYOTA focuses on developing leadership, entrepreneurial and life skills through psychosocial support, career guidance and extracurricular student clubs. CIYOTA has supported the education journeys of more than 5,000 students, including primary and secondary school learners and university students.

Paulinho Muzaliwa (left), teaching regenerative agriculture techniques at the Nakivale settlement in Uganda.

Muzaliwa founded UNIDOS amid COVID-19 after completing an online course in regenerative agriculture practices through the Permaculture Education Institute based in Australia. UNIDOS teaches regenerative agriculture and social entrepreneurial techniques to refugees living in the Nakivale settlement to help them grow sustainable and environmentally friendly food. In the last four years, UNIDOS has trained nearly 3,000 refugees in the settlement and now has a staff of 35 full- and part-time employees helping expand its mission.

"The work of Mr. Nziyonvira and Mr. Muzaliwa is an inspiring model for translating inherent refugee qualities of independence, self-help and human dignity into transformative refugee solutions," says Gene Dewey.

"Refugee-led organizations like CIYOTA and UNIDOS play an irreplaceable and critical role in creating lasting and meaningful change in the lives of refugees, and in the communities they serve," shares Suzanne Ehlers, Executive Director and CEO of USA for UNHCR.

"Mr. Nziyonvira and Mr. Muzaliwa's selfless dedication to empowerment and inclusion reflects the fundamental principles on which the Gene Dewey Refugee Award is grounded."

About the Gene Dewey Refugee Award:

Winners of the Gene Dewey Refugee Award display courage, selflessness, sacrifice and humility in their work for refugees and others forced to flee their homes. Honorees:

  • Show through work and actions, an extraordinary commitment to participating in or promoting activities that benefit refugees and forcibly displaced people; promote greater awareness and understanding of their plight; and as a result, have a direct positive impact in their lives.
  • Display selfless commitment to the forcibly displaced beyond standard duties and responsibilities.
  • Exhibit compassion and concern for refugees and displaced people.
  • Advocate for refugees and displaced people and promote understanding and respect for them.
  • Display tenacity in standing with refugees and forcibly displaced and stateless people.

About USA for UNHCR

USA for UNHCR helps and protects refugees and people displaced by violence, conflict and persecution. Supporting UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – and its partners, we provide lifesaving essentials including shelter, water, food, safety and protection. Around the world, we help refugees survive, recover and build a better future.

Established by concerned American citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, visit

USA for UNHCR Media Contact:

Nicholas Feeney, Director, Communications