What is asylumconnect?

AsylumConnect is a volunteer initiative creating the first website and mobile app to feature an online, centralized database of service providers useful to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. The AsylumConnect catalog will help persecuted LGBTQ people find basic human needs resources upon their arrival in the U.S.

See the infographic below for an overview of our organization. (Click to enlarge)

Learn more about our organization

Click on the plus symbols to learn more about how AsylumConnect was founded and what others have to say about us.

Our Story +

AsylumConnect co-founders Sayid and Katie met at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Both transfer students looking for a sense of community, they joined the same service fraternity and quickly formed a strong friendship.

That summer they both moved to New York City to pursue internships. On a hot July day, the two rising Penn seniors sat together on one of the only vacant benches in Central Park. Temporarily removed from the weight of their work obligations, they had their first conversation about AsylumConnect. As Sayid shared his passions for human rights and explained the struggles that LGBTQ people face on a global scale, Katie realized that she had failed to speak out about her own identity in a country where she at least had that choice. Finding strength in each other, the two friends joined their collective experiences and were inspired to start this initiative.

Returning to Penn in the fall, their extensive research uncovered a sobering reality. It is still illegal to be gay in 77 countries. These countries’ governments imprison, abuse, and even kill their gay citizens. As a result, the persecuted often seek refuge in the U.S. But upon arrival, LGBTQ asylum seekers often have nowhere to go, no social support, and no legal right to work. Many end up homeless. Through attending forums on the topic, Sayid and Katie discovered that despite access to technology during the asylum seeking process, LGBTQ asylum seekers still lack adequate information to meet their basic human needs in the U.S.

AsylumConnect strives to rectify this situation by assisting people seeking political asylum in the U.S. because of sexual orientation or gender expression.

The organization's vision is to provide an online, centralized catalog of service providers useful to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. In doing so, AsylumConnect hopes to assist asylum seekers in locating and obtaining lifesaving resources. This simple idea has the potential to benefit an estimated 300,000 people.

Sayid and Katie firmly believe in AsylumConnect’s potential to change the trajectory of this movement. By unfolding and changing the stories of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S., the initiative is fighting to give them the dignity and basic human right to live authentically.

Awards and Recognition +

AsylumConnect has won the following awards:

  • Millennium Peace Prize from the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference (MCC15) at the United Nations
  • 2015 Business Today (BT) Impact Challenge at the BT International Conference.

... has been recognized by:

... and has been featured in the following publications:

Articles about AsylumConnect +

The Daily Pennsylvanian

  • "Penn senior loses grant, gains life-changing project." April 29, 2015.
  • "Penn Ten: Sayid Abdullaev." April 2015.
  • "Penn alum wants to be the first openly gay man in space." September 1, 2015.

The Advocate

  • "From Closeted Catholic to Gay Hero." May 5, 2015.
  • "The Real Gay Heroes Are Those Fighting For a Better Life." June 5, 2015.

The Huffington Post

  • "AsylumConnect: Two Seniors' Quest to Create Lifesaving Online Informational Resources for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers." May 11, 2015.
  • "The Real 'Gay Heroes'." May 28, 2015.
  • "How I Co-Founded a Startup Without a Technical Background." August 3, 2015.
  • "Meet the Young Leader Competing to Be the First Openly Gay Man in Space." August 20, 2015.
  • "My Top 10 Takeaways From the 2015 Forbes Under 30 Summit." October 20, 2015.
  • "#ShadowsSpeakUp Instagram Campaign to Raise Awareness for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers." January 11, 2016.
  • "AsylumConnect Launches New Resource Catalog for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers in Seattle, WA." February 18, 2016.

Out Magazine

  • "UPenn Grad Seeks to Become First Openly Gay Man in Space." August 21, 2015.

Elite Daily

  • "Why I've Made It My Goal To Convince The World Of LGBTQ Humanity." August 26, 2015.

Sandwich for a Story #PeopleForPeople Blog

  • "LGBTQ Asylum Seekers Deserve More in the U.S." August 31, 2015.

Philadelphia Magazine

  • "Penn Alumni Establish First Ever Online Resource for LGBT Asylum Seekers." September 10, 2015.

The Seattle Times

  • "Local outreach project hopes to help LGBTQ immigrants, asylum-seekers." September 24, 2015.

The Seattle Globalist

  • "Helping LGBTQ asylum-seekers and immigrants destined for Seattle." September 28, 2015.

Philadelphia Gay News

  • "Safe and Sound: Organization to Help LGBT Asylum Seekers Started in Philly." October 8, 2015.
  • "Instagram campaign to help LGBT asylum seekers." (PGN News Briefing: Jan 15.-21, 2016.) January 14, 2016.

Accelerate.lgbt Blog

  • "Interview with Katie Sgarro." October 30, 2015.


  • "What Moves A Millennial: My Year Of Inspiration 2015." November 2, 2015.
  • "Under 30: How Will You Change The World" (Video). November 2, 2015.

The Seattle Lesbian

  • "AsylumConnect Releases New Resource Catalog for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers in Seattle." February 12, 2016.