Student Union Building
PO Box 444264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264
1031 N. Academic Way,
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
Rabiou Manzo ’03 Recognized for Humanitarian Service
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has recognized Rabiou Manzo ‘03 for his work assisting the Boise refugee community. He was one of five individuals internationally selected to receive the Sarlo Foundation Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for providing outstanding service to refugees and displaced persons.
Rabiou is a resettlement program manager at the Boise IRC office, and in the past three years has helped resettle nearly 1,000 people who have fled persecution in their homelands.
“These are people who have left everything behind,” said Rabiou. “We help them start a new life here.”
The refugee population coming to Boise shifts from year to year due to ever-changing crises around the world. The Boise IRC office has assisted individuals and families from Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, Burundi, Congo, Togo, Liberia, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
“Rabiou is the heartbeat of this office,” said Leslye Moore, the Boise regional director for IRC. “He’s an amazing individual who works around the clock.”
Moore and Rabiou met three years ago at an interpreter skills class in Boise. Rabiou had a job as a herdsman with a dairy in Nampa, but was frequently called on to act as an interpreter.
“I had just opened the Boise office and needed some one who spoke both French and Russian,” recalled Moore. She overheard Rabiou speaking perfect Russian and jokingly asked if he also spoke French.
“Oui,” he replied.
A job offer quickly followed.
In fact, Rabiou speaks two African languages, Ewe and his native Hausa, along with English for a total of five languages.
“It really is helpful,” said Rabiou. “I think I often use all five languages during the day with our clients.”
Rabiou’s life experiences also help him connect with his clients.
He grew up in the African nation of Niger. After graduating high school, Rabiou went to Ukraine and devoted six years to learning Russian and earning a veterinary science degree. He returned home, but found no job prospects.
Then, he had a chance meeting with a woman who worked for the U.S. State Department in Niger and asked her about universities in the U.S. The woman was Krisila Benson who grew up in Moscow. She told him about the University of Idaho and gave him her parents’ phone number.
In 2000, Rabiou again left home, this time to come to the University of Idaho to earn a master’s degree in animal science. He flew into New York City and then boarded a bus for a four-day trip to Moscow. When he arrived, he called Jim and Betty Benson.
“His English was terrible and my French wasn’t great,” recalled Betty. She was able to determine he was terribly hungry. He couldn’t get the vending machines at the bus stations to work, so he hadn’t eaten in four days.
The Benson’s got him checked in at Wallace Complex, he then started intensive English classes at the University of Idaho's American Language and Culture Program (ALCP) and was befriended by Amin Ahmadzadeh, professor of animal science, who guided Rabiou through his master’s degree program.
“We felt comfortable with each other,” said Ahmadzedah. “You can’t find a human being more humble, and he never forgets the opportunities he was given here.”
Rabiou and his wife, Juanita, met on the Palouse, and the Benson’s opened their home for their wedding.
“It was an amazing party,” recalled Betty Benson. “There were 45 guests and they represented 13 different countries.”
Now, the Manzo’s and their two daughters come back to visit Moscow and their friends there at least twice a year.
“It’s almost my hometown,” said Rabiou. “It’s the only home I’ve known since I left Africa.”
It’s a sentiment he is passing on to the refugees and displaced persons from around the world who are building a new life in Idaho.