queens ambassador awards 2017

RIF congratulates Pap Koudjo for receiving the 2017 Queens Ambassador Award, presented by TimesLedger newspapers at a gala on November 9, 2017.

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Pap, an exiled newspaper editor from Togo, was honored for his contributions to other refugees and for founding his own business, The Brand noproblem, selling sports caps marked with his favorite American motto.

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If you want to know more about his powerful story, make sure and read the article below by Ellie Alter.

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A Refugee Gives Back: Pap Koudjo and the noproblem Brand

By Ellie Alter

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You would be hard pressed to find a person who better embodies the phrase, “no problem,” then Pap Koudjo. Back home in Togo, Pap founded and ran a newspaper that published satirical, political commentary and cartoons: a noble project in a country that affords its citizens limited freedom of speech. Concurrently, Pap started a screen printing company that trained young people in his community with useful and marketable skills.

In 2015, Pap was forced to flee Togo or face further persecution as a result of his political opinion. Upon arriving to New York, Pap was confronted with the utter lack of support available to asylum seekers: no housing, no legal assistance, and no legal means of supporting himself for several months. This fate is discouraging to all, and crippling to many, but Pap soon connected with another, more positive aspect of life in New York City: the “no problem” attitude he has come to live by.

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Everywhere he went, he heard people use the phrase to respond in both gratitude, and apology. He became inspired by this idiom because it demonstrated a calm air of perseverance– as if New Yorkers were casually asserting that they hold the key to their own success. Through all of his challenges, Pap channeled the “no problem” attitude of the New Yorkers around him. With RIF’s help, and Pap’s determination, he was able to land a job at Gotham Greens, the leading hydroponic rooftop grower in the country.

Pap is a one-of-a-kind person. After securing his first job in NYC, he saved up a portion of his salary and made a generous contribution to RIF: an organization he credits for restoring his hope at a time when his hurdles seemed unsurmountable. In the decade that RIF has existed, he is the first to make such a gesture.

Pap understands the power of hope, support, and a “no problem” attitude in the refugee experience, know what it means to say “no problem” in the face of great adversity. The goal of his new sportswear brand, noproblem, is to honor this strength, and empower those in the struggle to take charge of their destinies. To this end, a portion of his profits will be donated to RIF, and he strives to create a job training program that prepares newly arrived refugees for the job market.