Freedom's Haven with Hani Shafai
Hani Shafai has worked tirelessly to transform industries and provide sustainable employment and housing in the Black Hills for nearly 40 years. Hani first arrived in South Dakota at the age of 19, seeking a safe education out of harm’s way. He found himself far from his war-torn home in the Gaza Strip in Palestine when he arrived in Rapid City.
Hani has always had a vision for a better tomorrow, and his success as a real estate developer has gone hand in hand with his work to give back through philanthropy. Some of his notable projects include his work to fight homelessness in the Black Hills area by helping establish the OneHeart Transformation Campus and expanding services at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission.
Hani recently joined South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) President & CEO Stephanie Judson to discuss his philanthropic work and his time as a SDCF board member.
“It was really a no-brainer to be a part of something that serves the needs of the state–and it doesn’t focus on just one need or one area. [The organization] tried to really identify how to help people in need move forward,” said Hani about his choice to join the SDCF board.
“It was really a no-brainer to be a part of something that serves the needs of the state–and it doesn’t focus on just one need or one area. [The organization] tried to really identify how to help people in need move forward.”Hani Shafai
A project that Hani has helped to champion from the beginning has been the launching of Freedom's Haven for New Americans' Workforce. When this project was in development, Hani met with Mike Cartney, former president of Lake Area Technical College, and other individuals to discuss the need for employees throughout the South Dakota workforce. When the war in Ukraine broke out, the project saw the opportunity for their efforts to join forces with humanitarian efforts to relocate some of the 7,000 million displaced people from combat.
This initiative realizes there is the potential to welcome refugees to South Dakota to help fill some of the nearly 30,000 current job openings throughout the state. Freedom's Haven ultimately aims to bring 5,000 to 10,000 Ukrainian refugees to South Dakota. Not only did Hani help strategize what workforce development could look like in the state, but he championed the effort of Freedom’s Haven with a $50,000 matching donation to the projects fund, established at the SDCF.
“We saw that this would provide one option to bring up our workforce in the state, but at the same time help good people who really need our help,” said Hani.
He also touched on the many ways one can help refugees seek asylum work in South Dakota— from financial contributions to the project’s fund to sponsoring refugees (an important step in helping refugees seek work visas). Freedom’s Haven is not just focused on bringing refugees to the state but also focuses on preparing South Dakota communities to successfully receive an influx of citizens by assessing school systems, housing, and more.