Our Story

IT STARTED ON A BENCH... 

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 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 personal experiences seeking LGBTQ asylum in the U.S. and explained the struggles that LGBTQ people continue to 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 to co-found AsylumConnect.

Returning to Penn in the fall, their extensive research uncovered a sobering reality. It is still illegal to be gay in at least 73 countries. LGBTQ people in these countries are imprisoned and subjected to "corrective action," including rape by government officials and public humilation. In 10 countries, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty. As a result, thousands of LGBTQ immigrants and asylum seekers come to the U.S. every year fleeing persecution in their home countries based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 
 

Yet upon arrival in the U.S., many do not know where to go for food, shelter, medical aid, social support, legal assistance to file their asylum application, and other basic human needs. It is not a lack of access to technology that hinders their adjustment; rather, it is that there is no user-friendly, online database to point them towards the lifesaving resources able to serve LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S.

AsylumConnect strives to rectify this situation through providing the first online resource database for LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. In doing so, AsylumConnect hopes to assist LGBTQ asylum seekers in identifying and accessing local lifesaving resources.

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

 

Our Core Values

In September 2016, our team officially set AsylumConnect's core values. The following seven values reflect what we care most about at AsylumConnect.

  1. Be accountable
  2. Scale responsibly
  3. Build for sustainability
  4. Take the initiative
  5. Do no harm
  6. Default to open
  7. Ask and listen
 

Our Team

By clicking on the photos below, you can learn more about our co-founders, directors and associates. If you're interested in joining the team, check out our open positions!

Scroll down the page to learn more about our advisors. 

 
 
 

Co-Founders

We were co-founded by a gay asylum seeker and lesbian in 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania.

 
 
 

Directors

Directors are the leadership team of AsylumConnect. They oversee our day-to-day operations and manage our associates.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Associates

Associates work to support our directors and are invaluable to the continued growth of our organization. Our associate positions allow individuals with specialized skill sets to make a meaningful contribution to AsylumConnect. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Advisors

Click on the photos below, to learn more about members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Council.  

 
 

Board

The Board of Directors is the governing body for AsylumConnect. Our board plays a pivotal role in developing AsylumConnect’s strategic plan, and provides oversight and guidance. Ultimately, our board works to steer AsylumConnect towards a bright and sustainable future. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a diverse group of LGBTQ advocates, asylees, refugees, nonprofit leaders, and human rights defenders. Members of our Advisory Council generously lend their areas of expertise, personal experiences, networks, and resources to help ensure the AsylumConnect catalog reaches its full potential. (Click on the photos below to learn more about each member.)