Edafe Okporo, an NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business student, who is pursuing an MS in Human Resouce Management and Development was recently featured in The New York Times as a winner of the newly established David Prize for his work as the executive director of the RDJ Refugee Shelter for homeless people. He is one of only five winners selected out of 6,500 applicants, who were recognized for their ideas to create a better and brighter New York City, and will receive a $200,000 award.
A former asylum-seeker, Okporo intimately understands the issues facing refugees. He grew up in Nigeria, the youngest of four siblings in a low-income household, and was the first in his family to attend college. He earned a BS in food science and technology at Enugu State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria. “I wanted to support people who were experiencing “kwashiorkor,” malnutrition resulting from lack of protein in the diet,” he asserted, and worked for a time as a grass roots activist in nutrition and HIV counseling.
Okporo was forced to flee Nigeria when he was threatened and assaulted for being gay in the aftermath of a ban on same-sex marriage in his country. In 2016, he sought asylum in the US, where he was held in a detention center for five months and also spent time in homeless shelters. With help from local agencies, he was able to land the job of director of the RDJ shelter, which provides asylum-seekers with housing and other critical services.
In August, he enrolled in the MS in Human Resource Management and Development at NYU SPS to refine his business skills and organizational effectiveness. “As someone who is locally engaged in helping those who are less fortunate, NYU is the ideal place for me to earn the credentials to further my career,” he noted.
His plans for the future include working for a company in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and running for political office. He believes it is particularly important for people who are directly impacted by poverty, homelessness, and discrimination to have a say in how societal issues affect their lives.
“When I see any form of injustice, I like to fight it,” he said. He plans to use his David Prize to build awareness about the need for refugee and asylum-seeker housing. His memoir, Asylum was recently published by Simon & Schuster.