A retired Foreign Service Officer and former journalist, I work on refugee issues as needed for the Department of State, including in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Cuba. I was raised in Minneapolis, educated at the University of Minnesota and Harvard's Kennedy School, speak four languages and I served in South America, Mozambique, Italy, and the Holy See.
She modestly describes her work, but I'd say she is one of the smart, brave, and compassionate Americans working to heal some of the world's woes.
Here is a Note from Yvonne:
It’s reassuring to see the outpouring of sympathy and offers to help refugees in general and especially Syrians. Maybe the silver lining is people will learn more about refugees and the refugee program than anyone would have ever guessed, and will be motivated and proud of what our country is and does for people in horrific straits.
The original idea is the international community supports persons fleeing persecution until such time as conditions improve and they can return home safely. But conflict is so entrenched and brutal and widespread these days. The second best option is to integrate persons in the country of refuge, but countries with huge refugee influxes are understandably hesitant to absorb huge numbers. Resettlement is a last resort, and available to only a tiny fraction of persons in desperate situations.
The most immediate way to help refugee arrivals to establish themselves in their new communities is to volunteer or help the agencies that resettle refugees. In New Jersey, they are Catholic Services in Camden, Jewish Services in East Orange, International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth and Church World Service in Jersey City. Tutoring and ESL are great ways to help. Underfunded international agencies UNHCR, UNICEF, UNRWA, WPF, and US and foreign NGOs like International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, do wonderful work abroad, and welcome support.
And we can help by speaking out and educating the public to remember we are a nation of immigrants, with compassion and capacity, thankful for our blessings and kind and generous to those in need.
Middle Photo: Syrian refugee "settlement" in Bekka Valley. Yvonne says, "Lebanon does not permit refugee camps in Lebanon. Syrians live among host communities or rent space in fields and abandoned or unfinished buildings, and receive some help from UN and private agencies. Lebanon, a country of 4.5 million, hosts approximately 1.2 million Syrian refugees."
Below: At a Caritas event for urban refugee youth south of Tripoli. Providing education for destitute and traumatized refugee children is a top priority.