World Refugee Day: Leaning In for Global Community

By Ashlea Elliott

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) currently estimates that 65.6 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution, the highest number of refugees at a single time on record. Among them are 22.5 million refugees (half of whom are under 18) and 10 million stateless people. People, organizations, and corporations around the globe showed up for World Refugee Day 2017, raised their voices, and showed that they were #WithRefugees and willing to #StandWithRefugees across a range of issues spanning human rights, humanitarian aid, crisis response, global public health, safety within camps, education, job training, resettlement, and more.

During recent conversations with Lean In Seattle Chapter members, I’ve learned that some members of our chapter are already very active within the expatriate, immigrant, and refugee communities and that others are very interested in learning more about these communities and finding out about potential volunteering opportunities. So I spent this day and the weeks since looking into ways that people, organizations, and corporations in the Greater Seattle area are showing that they #StandWithRefugees and offer volunteer opportunities for our very active volunteers who may be looking for a new way to get involved and give back to the community.

One thing that has really caught my attention is how extraordinary the organizations and corporations in the Greater Seattle area are when it comes to advocating for refugees as well as coming together to meet some of the very specific needs that refugees from all over the world when they face resettling within our community.

These three companies really stood out for their advocacy and activism in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) this year on World Refugee Day:

Google: This link shows the incredible dedication that Google has shown to supporting refugees through technology, partnerships and funding. You’ll learn about Google’s partnerships with NetHope to provide free Wi-Fi access so more than 800,000 displaced people can contact loved ones and access critical information, and also with IRC and Mercy Corps to develop Refugee.Info a platform that provides translation services, maps and other critical asylum information; how Google has provided funding and technology to deliver educational platforms, language learning and workforce training and job placement services; and how Google is using technology and social media to provide platforms where refugees have the opportunity to share their individual stories about how each person is #MoreThanARefugee.

Microsoft Philanthropies: Change Their Stories. Read the stories of five courageous youth who remain hopeful despite perilous journeys and daunting circumstances. MIcrosoft shares the company’s goals for how we can change their stories and help other young refugees achieve their dreams, and also provides additional resources about how we can get involved.

eBay: For World Refugee day, eBay created the Sell for Charity program, with more than 1,000 items for sale that raised funds for IRC. eBay also provided more than 10 pages of resources for us to get involved with the #StandWithRefugees movement and IRC.

A Phenomenal Commitment to Local and Global Refugee Communities and Many Volunteer Opportunities

On June 28, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center hosted In Her Voice: Stories of Hope and Resilience as a special event to provide a safe space where women refugees from Iraq, Somalia, Burma, and Mexico who have resettled in the Seattle area were able to share their stories as well as their perspectives on the challenges, choices, and changes that they have encountered during their transition to living in United States.

Several Lean In Seattle members attended this powerful event, a part of the Visitor Center’s exhibition Women Hold Up Half the Sky, which was inspired by the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. If you are interested in learning more about stories of women throughout the world, the exhibit will be open through January, 2018 and admission is free.

During the Gates event, local organizations who are doing incredible work shared that they have many volunteer needs of all different types throughout the Greater Seattle area. I put together this list of organizations and links to their Get Involved or Volunteer Sign Up pages for you to explore:

I’ll be collaborating closely with Lean In Seattle members who are engaged and interested in developing programming and chapter events related to expatriates, immigrants, and refugees, including our November event on Financial Skills. And I’ll be on the lookout for more volunteer opportunities to share with you. If this is an area that you’re passionate about, I’d love to connect with you. Please feel free to reach out to me at ashleaelliott @

Ashlea Elliott