New American Scholars


New American Scholars Founder Attends First Umuganda Celebration with Refugee Community

Riyah Patel and Scholars enjoying a quick break by the mural before tackling the afternoon math lesson.


Nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups from across Concord came together in late June to celebrate New Hampshire’s refugee community for the first annual Umuganda celebration.


Joining the effort was New American Scholars founder and President Riyah Patel who worked hand in hand alongside other nonprofit leaders to ensure the celebration was a success.


“It is inspiring to see everyone show up for the new Americans of Concord and the greater state of New Hampshire,” Riyah said. “We are a welcoming community. This event embodies what we can achieve when we work together.”


Umuganda was organized by Overcomers Refugee Services with help from Welcoming New Hampshire, and took place on June 25 at Keach Park in southeast Concord. The event was supported by several prominent businesses and nonprofits including volunteer support from New American Scholars.


The idea for the event was inspired by Concord’s large Rwandan community. Umuganda is a national holiday in Rwanda that takes place on the last Saturday of each month where everyone comes together to focus on community work.


While Rwandan traditions were front and center, the event itself was attended by people of many backgrounds who make up the 7,500 refugees now calling New Hampshire home.


Much like Umuganda events taking place in Rwanda, Concord’s version saw attendees paint a mural, plant a pollinator garden, and beautify and clean other parts of Keach Park. To celebrate the work of Umuganda, everyone was treated to East African food and music.


New American Scholars Founder Riyah Patel poses with students attending Umuganda.


“Despite our different experiences and backgrounds, we are all here together as one community to make Keach Park more welcoming,” Riyah said. “It’s a symbol of what it means to give back to the neighborhoods and cities we call home.”


For Riyah, the event was a reminder as to why she founded New American Scholars during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Today, the nonprofit offers free-of-charge tutoring services to refugees who have resettled in Concord, Manchester, Nashua and the Seacoast.


Much like the event, New American Scholars also provides a sense of community for those enrolled in services, which in-turn helps build support networks and social networks.


Building a brighter future for new Americans in New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s first Umuganda had two main activities that involved attendees painting a large mural and planting a pollinator garden.


The mural was designed by Manchester artist Jozimar Matimano, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and resettled in New Hampshire from Uganda in 2016.


The mural Matimano designed for Keach Park was a U.S. map painted with vibrant colors and bordered by academic symbols, musical instruments and sports equipment which represented the hopes and dreams of new Americans. To the left of the map are five figures with gold crowns painted above their heads looking at the U.S.


The Pollinator Garden blooms!


Riyah joined the other volunteers in the spirit of Umuganda by painting different parts of the mural. When the mural was completed, she took a moment to appreciate the new art that will be an important part of Keach Park for future visitors.


Not too far away from the mural, volunteers were also busy planting the pollinator garden designed by Concord resident Leslie van Berkum. The garden was being filled with plants that will be helpful to New Hampshire horticulture when they grow larger for butterflies and bees to spread beyond the park.


Riyah made sure to spend time with the children in attendance, many of whom are either enrolled in New American Scholars tutoring or might potentially enroll in the future. For her, they continue to be the main source of inspiration within the new American community.


“This is why I started New American Scholars and it’s great to gather with so many others who care about seeing these people succeed as much as I do,” Riyah said. “So much of New Hampshire’s future is within this community and I am excited to be a part of building a better future for the Granite State.”


Click here to learn more about New American Scholars.


More photos from Umuganda celebration