Mikhail Sebastian is a stateless man who has been living in the US for 16 years. He found himself stuck on the island of American Samoa for a little over a year because of a gap in US immigration law. The creative advocacy strategy I developed successfully helped change a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision and Mikhail was allowed to return to the US within under two months of the distribution of this video. This strategy was aimed at a small and specific audience. While Mikhail’s story generated a number of articles and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour picked up this video, the real power of the strategy was bringing to life the struggles of one stateless person in a simple and emotionally compelling manner and connecting that story to a larger campaign, Citizens of Nowhere. While Mikhail has begun rebuilding his life in Los Angeles, the immigration reform community continues to use the Citizens of Nowhere report, webpage and this video, to put a face on an abstract and misunderstood issue with the hopes that the US Congress will adopt legislation that enables stateless individuals to apply for citizenship in the US.
In December 2012 Lady Antebellum, the Grammy winning country music trio, launched LadyAID a philanthropic effort to raise funds for children globally. After a series of discussions Lady Antebellum chose UNHCR as their global partner. I was instrumental in securing this relationship. Lady Antebellum will raise funds and visibility for UNHCR’s work globally. The group has also partnered with a national and local organization to support children.
Below is a link to the web story about the launch.
Under my direction a branded campaign was developed to shape a two-year advocacy plan with the legal unit of UNHCR in the United States. The aim of the campaign is to work with the U.S. government to establish a process whereby stateless individuals can apply for citizenship. This legislative fix would fall under comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign has already proven successful with the Department of Homeland Security. Below is a link to the splash page where the report and other materials can be downloaded.
The Educate A Child initiative was launched in November 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar. Alek Wek, who I manage for UNHCR, was invited as the opening speaker for the pioneering event. I wrote Alek’s speech, managed her media preparations and talking points for high profile meetings. The EAC matched UNHCR in a US$12 million grant to assist 172,000 refugee children gain access to quality primary education in 2012.
Speakers included Her Highness, the UN Refugee Agency High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, Gordon Brown and many other influential leaders from around the world. Below is a link to Her Highness talking about the initiative and a UNHCR web story. Following the launch Her Highness’ office expressed interest in collaborating with Alek and I on initiatives we’re developing in the United States.
UNHCR and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser launch program to educate 172,000 refugee children
For the one year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence I organized a field mission with UNHCR supporter Alek Wek. Wek visited a UNHCR returnee site in her hometown of Wau where UNHCR has built 500 homes for returning refugees, a community center, school, police post and is providing other services. Alek was able to take part in the anniversary celebrations and meet with the first lady. Additionally, Wek traveled to the border to talk with arriving refugees who are fleeing the violence in Sudan. Below is a short documentary I produced of the journey. I was able, with the support of Alek’s publicists, to secure over 60 media articles on South Sudan and Wek. We have since begun working on fundraising efforts for education facilities in South Sudan. I also wrote several articles from the trip. Some are linked below.
Humanitarian storytelling is effective when you connect global refugee crises with local characters and stories. Abdiweli Heibeh’s story highlights the important role refugee professionals play in building bridges between host communities and refugee populations. Abdi was the first Somali police officer in the San Diego police department. Below is his story.
There’s something about Mark Kabban’s face that says ‘I am going to change the world — you just watch me.’ Kabban, 25, was a professional soccer player for college ball and has transferred his passion for the game to children who need it most. “Most of the kids are from Iraq,” said Kabban.
Kabban is the executive director for Yalla SD. A nonprofit organization dedicated to the use of sports and education for refugee kids. Located in El Cajon, California, one of the highest ranking refugee resettlement cities in the country, Yalla offers a competitive soccer program, a peace builders league, after school tutoring and other creative initiatives for refugee kids.
Below is a video of Mark’s work I produced and an article I published in Huffington Post.
Huffington Post Article: