Stories of dignity for UNHCR

Photos: courtesy UNHCR
  • Narrative design
  • Briefs
  • Article production
  • Traduction
  • Communications


  • Intergovernmental Organization
  • Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship
  • Economy

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a global organization dedicated to saving lives and protecting the rights of refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless persons.

In 2021, UPPL was commissioned by the Canadian UNHCR Agency to produce stories that bring diversity to the organization’s media channels, raising awareness to the programs and pathways of those who have found refuge in Canada. The notion of dignity was at the heart of our approach. We produced human-focused stories that value the people who are forced to leave their country. Through our storytelling approach, it was important to highlight each person’s dreams, skills and ambitions as well as celebrate the communities they integrated across Canada.

This work led to “Beyond Refugees”, an original concept UPPL developed as a fundraising campaign for UNHCR. “Beyond Refugees” is a campaign that brings attention to the potential, contributions and stories of refugees. It takes the form of digital stories, advertising billboards, an immersive multimedia experience and a book.

Could Esperanza have imagined, while she was sewing dresses from the United Nation’s Kakuma camp in Kenya, that she would one day try to live her passion on the other side of the Atlantic?

We met virtually in September of 2021 – Espérance on her computer in Cambridge, Ontario, and I in Montreal, Quebec – to talk about her extraordinary journey from Congo to Canada.

“Coming here, I felt like life was giving me a second chance”

Esperanza Fashion Canadian entrepreneur
Espérance sits at her workstation as she gets to work on her latest creative fashion piece. ©HCR/Ian Patterson
“Life was not easy without parents in the camp”  

– Evodia

After fleeing Burundi and landing in camps in Tanzania, they now sit together, three and a half years later, in layers of puffer coats and blue medical masks that can’t contain the cheek-numbing grins underneath.
“My husband thought we could be rich, my whole family said that we would have success and fortune because he was born albino ”

– Joséphine

Josephine and Evodia
Saba Andu from the Saskatoon Open Door Society (left) helps reunite Josephine Niyibinga and her daughter Evodia (middle to right) three and half years later. © HCR/Amy Thorp
Hawa Arsala, UPPL, UNHCR
Hawa Arsala (UPPL) in interview Zoom with Josephine and Evodia, a few weeks after their reunion in Canada.
In several African countries, including Burundi, Albino people, particularly children, are often hunted, abducted, and murdered in ritualistic killings.

Josephine’s husband was intent on selling their son, but for Josephine “there was no way I could do that to my own son.” She ran away the night a man was to come to the house and take her child.

“There were dead people on the street in my neighborhood. I didn’t know who to trust, I even distrusted the police. I had to be very careful to stay alive. I didn’t want my mother to be distressed if something happened to me.”
– Mokhles
Mokhles Abdulghani remembers when he stopped thinking about the future. It was somewhere around the year 2007, at age 22, four years after the war in Iraq began.
“I started to have some hope that there would be a future for me ”
– Mokhles
Mokhles Abdulghani
Mokhles Abdulghani, engineer, with three children (Photo: courtesy of


  • Hawa Amin-Arsala (Author)
  • Sarah Bilson (Author)
  • Fatou Alhya Diagne (Author)
  • Cindy Laverdière (Traduction)
  • Léa Jodoin (Graphic Design)
  • Tamy Emma Pepin (Author, Editor & Creative Dir.)
  • Nhial Deng
  • Tashiba Esperance
  • Josephine Niyibinga
  • Evodia Cimpaya
  • Mokhles Abdulghani


  • Saskatoon Open Doors Society
  • UNHCR Canada