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Little Amal Comes to Pittsburgh: Panel Discussion on Refugees and Unaccompanied Minors

September 12 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year old Syrian refugee girl who stands for unity and hope. This fall, she will journey 6,000 miles across the United States in one of the largest free public festivals ever created, and on Septmeber 20-21, Pittsburgh will welcome her with events hosted by leading local arts organizations. To prepare for her visit, JFCS and RealTime have gathered a panel of resettlement experts and former refugees to explore the challenges unaccompanied minors face in their journey to find a new home.

The event is free, but requires registration. Please register here at City of Asylum.

Moderator: Molly Rice, co-Artistic Director and Lead Playwright of RealTime Arts, a partner of the Little Amal project

Jamie Englert, JFCS Director of Immigration Legal Services
Ivonne Smith-Tapia, JFCS Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services
Bahishta Mohammadi, recent high school graduate and former refugee from Afghanistan

Follow Amal on her journey:

Panelist Biographies:

Ivonne Smith-Tapia joined JFCS as Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services in July 2021. She holds master’s degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Social Work with a certificate in Human Services Management. Ivonne worked for more than a decade with the Colombian government, international NGOs and think tanks promoting community development, education, human rights, and leadership in diverse rural and urban communities in Colombia. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2013 and has worked with the University of Pittsburgh providing training and technical assistance to Family Support Centers, implementing research projects with the Latino community, and at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh leading programming on global issues.Jamie Englert is the JFCS Director of Immigration Legal Services and has been with JFCS Pittsburgh for nearly 20 years.  She started her career at JFCS as an Accredited Representative. Jamie has grown the Immigration Legal Department through her leadership by incorporating non-traditional legal tools such as process mapping and continues to build an agile framework to increase efficiency, teamwork, and accountability. Jamie studied at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a volunteer and board member of Orchard View Stables.  OVS is a horse farm which provides riding and therapeutic hippotherapy lessons for individuals with special needs.

Bahishta Mohammadi, graduated from Brashear High School in 2023 with Honors.  She was a JFCS 412 Futures graduate and student leader.    Bahishta is currently enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Business. She plans to study Business and Marketing.
Bahishta and her family came from Afghanistan and moved directly to Pittsburgh in 2019. She is the oldest girl in the family and credits her father for being an amazing leader and pushing her to become what she wants. She is working part-time at Amazon. Bahishta was inducted in the National Honor Society and received the Leadership Award and High Honors Department Award.

Moderator biography:
Molly Rice is a Founder and Artistic Director of RealTime Arts, where her work was nominated for Global Pittsburgh’s Organizational Diversity Champion Award in 2020. Her playwriting honors and awards include Brown University’s Weston Prize, nominations for the New York IT Awards, the Carole R. Brown Award, the Kesselring Fellowship, and selection for two New Works Initiatives with 2019 Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin. With RealTime, she creates and produces hyperlocal-meets-universal projects like The Birth of Paper (2021), a transcontinental work of humanitarian theater in Pittsburgh and Beirut, Lebanonand Khuraki, created with Afghan refugees (nominated for 2019 Mayor’s Award for Public Art). She is beginning work on her next large-scale project, an adaptation of Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird in collaboration with Ukrainian art therapists, at the Bogliasco Fellowship in Italy in April.


September 12
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services
RealTime Arts


Free, registration required


City of Asylum
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212 United States
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