Meet a Roadrunner: Sumeyra Tek helps local refugee families adapt to new home

Sumeyra Tek

Student Sumeyra Tek in a UTSA physics lab

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(July 23, 2014) -- Meet Sumeyra Tek. For the last four years, the 31-year-old native of Turkey and her husband have been helping families fleeing persecution from their native homelands adjust to their new lives in San Antonio.

As a child in Turkey, Tek was curious and possessed a thirst for knowledge. That curiosity led her to pursue a career in science and earn bachelor's and master's degrees in physics.

In 2009, she moved to San Antonio with her husband, a mathematics professor, and their newborn daughter, Hafsa. The following year, she enrolled at UTSA to pursue her doctoral degree in physics. She currently is a researcher in the Functional Nanomaterials Research Laboratory studying rare earth materials. Tek has taught a few semesters as a teaching assistant but hopes to eventually teach full time.

She and her husband Suleyman have been active in the international community, meeting and welcoming refugee families in San Antonio. The couple also takes area college students to meet the families and assist with home restoration service projects.

Recently, Tek volunteered at The Dialog Institute of the Southwest in Northwest San Antonio, where she helped organize events to celebrate different cultures and faiths. One of the events, "Women's Table Talk," featured a speaker discussing dangerous refugee conditions and the challenges they face adapting to life in a new society.

Last month, the pair participated locally in the sixth annual World Refugee Day Festival. Refugees representing more than 21 countries were in attendance.

"It was nice to see my daughter and three-year-old son, Erkan, playing with refugee children on the playground and watching them enjoy music and dances from all around the world," said Tek. "Every culture has its own values and offers something we all can learn from. Respect and love are values we all need, but first we have to come together and get to know each other better."

A United Nations report shows more than 43 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution. Every minute, eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.

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