Dominique Golden

Dominique Golden

Dominique Golden

MSW and GCEI student, founder of Rights4Refugees

Dominique is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a Master of Social Work with a focus in community development. She is the founder of the grassroots organization Rights4Refugees.  

Four years ago, Dominique Golden took a transformative trip to Rome, Italy.

“For months, I prepped for the trip and made a list of all the cool places I should visit,” she says. “Well, once I got there, I found something that I wasn’t prepared for—there was a large number of refugees living on the street.”

She couldn’t turn a blind eye. To learn more, she volunteered at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Camp in Rome.

“I taught English classes, prepared meals, but noticed that their basic needs like hygiene were not being met due to lack of resources.”

When she returned to the States, the experience stayed with her. Knowing the refugee crisis isn’t unique to Italy, she was determined to do something closer to home. She confided in a friend who was attending Wayne State that recommended Dominique look into the university’s social work program.

“Of course, I thought she was crazy. I mean, my background was in business.”

Despite her initial skepticism, Dominique looked into the program and ultimately determined that it’d be a great fit, that it’d educate her on how to best serve refugees.  

“What I have come to learn is that your purpose may have a crazy way of finding you, but it’s up to you to answer the call.”

So in 2017, she quit her corporate career, enrolled at Wayne State and hit the ground running.

Within months, she’d founded Rights4Refugees (R4R), “a grassroots organization modeled after Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” with the aim to “provide humanitarian aid to urban refugees.”

In December of that same year, R4R was selected to participate in the OptimizeWayne Social Innovation Challenge, a “social enterprise incubator for students at Wayne State that have visions for positive social impact,” Dominique says. The initiative awarded R4R $7000 so that it could start making “tangible change.”

Currently in its pilot program, R4R will officially launch in 2019.

The organization’s long-term goals? “To operate as a nonprofit that becomes a first-respondent for refugees,” she says, by providing hygiene items such as soap, shampoo and sanitary napkins, through a subscription box service at low costs.

Networking with other organizations that have been serving the local community for years will provide more immigrants with access to R4R’s services.

The organization has already struck up a partnership with the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) “to donate 700 toiletry and household items for their program Building Blocks for New Americans, which supports more than 50 New American families from Syria, Yemen and Iraq—now living in Metro Detroit.”

In the future, R4R will work with ACCESS to conduct focus groups to validate R4R’s concept.

“This will help us to revise our approach, measure implications and eventually scale globally,” she says.

What Dominique and her collogues have achieved in only a year may seem like a rare feat. But she’s adamant that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

“There is a large misconception that you need millions of dollars or large partnerships to start something that matters,” she says. “That is totally untrue. Start small with what you have—join a program like OptimizeWayne that helps you conceptualize your idea; (at Wayne State) take the Social Entrepreneurship course with Marijo Upshaw to gain a deeper understanding of how social ventures are formed; work with Derrin Leppek who teaches Intro to Entrepreneurship to learn about a business plan; work with the Build Institute to gain more business skills and a supportive community to help you thrive. Lastly, validate your concept in the market. You got this!