The day I learned about AsylumConnect (or “AsCo” as I call it) was the day my life changed for the better.
I met AsylumConnect Co-founder Katie Sgarro at the 2015 Millennium Campus Conference (MCC15) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. During one of our many group discussions, Katie spoke about AsylumConnect and I thought this is what I should be doing. The passion with which she explained the organization’s goals made me think that I so badly wanted to be her. I was so intrigued that I began to talk so much and ask her so many questions, that by the end I’m pretty sure Katie was tired of me. Throughout the conference, I spent my time reading about AsCo and trying to find ways to become very involved in the organization. After not too long, my application was accepted for the position of AsCo Volunteer Coordinator and the pride I felt upon receiving that news reverberated in everything I did.
See, I’ve gone through life with a basic knowledge and familiarity with the process of seeking asylum. To me, asylum seeking has always seemed like a common act. I have family members that have successfully received asylum in the U.S. and they always told me how easy a process it was for them. So when I heard about the hardships facing LGBTQI asylum seekers, I was a little bit shocked. I was unable to fathom the idea that while most can easily gain asylum for saying their country hates them, LGBTQI people continue to face many challenges. When people who identify within the LGBTQI community seek asylum, the results and reactions change. I became so enraged at this discovery and my mood didn’t change after finding so many more stories about the discrimination faced by LGBTQI asylum seekers. As a result, I vowed to help the 300,000+ LGBTQI asylum seekers in the US.
This decision did not come so easy for me. I had to evaluate my surroundings and make sure it was worth the risk. I had to make sure that I could handle whatever came my way in the future. And yes, there will be ups and downs, failures and successes along the way – but I chose to go through that with the team I’m part of now rather than alone. I know that at the end of the tunnel there will be a bright light and I firmly believe that many people will benefit from AsCo – and that is what keeps me going.
-Marie, AsylumConnect Volunteer Coordinator