• The Yale Refugee Project

  • About YRP

    Welcome to the Yale Refugee Project! We are an organization of undergraduate students passionately devoted to aiding refugees and other forced migrants. At its core, that means supporting refugees resettled in Greater New Haven. The city of New Haven alone typically receives over 200 new refugees for resettlement each year. However, in just the month of July of 2016, the local resettlement agency welcomed more refugees than its has in entire years.


    The challenges of resettlement are many, and vary from family to family. For years, YRP volunteers have been responding to the challenges of social isolation and helped to provide new families critical support—whether that be as simple as tutoring English or as extraordinary as becoming such close friends that they planned a wedding party for a young refugee couple who never had the chance to celebrate their marriage. Constantly searching for ways to better serve our local refugee population, we are eager to improve on our old methods of direct assistance as well as pioneer new ones.
    In addition to aiding local refugees, YRP has striven to develop a culture of awareness and advocacy for the cause of refugees around the globe. Many recognize that we are currently facing the greatest refugee crisis since the Holocaust, or that there are between 19 and 20 million refugees worldwide, with an additional 2 million forced migrants seeking asylum. As such, we believe that a deeper understanding of the plight of refugees is indispensable for the flourishing of humanity and, thus, concerns those majoring in Applied Math as much as those studying Global Affairs.


    This 2016-2017 academic year, we are launching a new program of awareness and advocacy for the YRP family, Yale, and New Haven. From hosting talks with experts in the refugee regime to urging public officials to end the detention of families seeking asylum in the US, we seek to prepare events and campaigns that best advance refugee issues.
    Between direct assistance and advocacy and awareness, YRP hopes to redefine Yale’s relationship with refugees. We are unprecedented in all of our programs among other universities across the United States. In this way also, we aim to provide an example of how undergraduate students and refugees can relate. We hope you will consider joining us, and extend a hand to the world.

    For our latest updates, please visit and like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/yalerefugeeproject/. For more information about IRIS, New Haven's local resettlement agency, please visit http://www.irisct.org/.

  • Our Executive Board

    Rosa Shapiro-Thompson


    Rosa is a sophomore history major with particular interests in studying Arabic and human rights. She first began volunteering with YRP two years ago, and last summer worked with young Afghan and Syrian children as an intern at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). Outside of YRP, Rosa works at the Council on Middle East Studies, writes for the Globalist, and edits for the Yale Review of International Studies. You can reach her at rosa.shapiro-thompson@yale.edu.

    Laura Plata

    Vice President

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at laura.plata@yale.edu.


    Trinh Truong

    Director of Advocacy

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at trinh.truong@yale.edu.

    Sarah Donilon

    Director of Outreach

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at sarah.donilon@yale.edu

    Huy Truong

    Director of Co-Ed Programming

    More information coming soon. You can reach him at huy.truong@yale.edu.

    Yasamin Sharifi

    Director of Women's Programming

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at yasamin.sharifi@yale.edu.

    Michelle Phan

    Deputy Director of Women's Programming

    More information coming soon
    You can reach her at michelle.phan@yale.edu.

    Ariela Zebede


    Ariela is a sophomore Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major with a particular interest in women's reproductive health and women's rights. Outside of YRP, Ariela sings for Mixed Company of Yale and serves as their business manager, volunteers at HAVEN Free Clinic, helping provide social services and healthcare to New Haven's undocumented community, and works as a Community Health Educator.
    You can reach her at ariela.zebede@yale.edu.

    Kit Lea Cheang

    Advocacy & Awareness Coordinator

    Kit Lea is a philosophy and political science double-major from Singapore. She is interested in issues of immigration, porous borders and identity. Other than advocating with YRP, Kit Lea writes for Yale Daily News Weekend and performs spoken word with Jook Songs.
    You can reach her at ariela.zebede@yale.edu.

    Caterina Passoni

    Advocacy & Awareness Coordinator

    Caterina is from Trieste, a small city in the North Eastern part of Italy. She is majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics and Modern Middle Eastern Studies, with a particular focus on refugee policy, inter-religious issues and human rights. She is particularly passionate about advocating for Arab and Middle Eastern refugees in Europe and the United States. Caterina also works as a cultural companion for refugees in the New Haven Community. In her free time, she does ballet and ballroom dancing. You can reach her at caterina.passoni@yale.edu.

    Ryan Gittler

    Advocacy & Awareness Coordinator

    Ryan is a sophomore from southern New Jersey considering a major in Political Science or Global Affairs. He is particularly interested in human rights, genocide studies, and investigative reporting. Outside of YRP, Ryan is a staff reporter for the Yale Daily News, volunteers with Special Olympics at Yale, and sings baritone for The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus. You can reach him at ryan.gittler@yale.edu.

    Daniel Vernick

    Advocacy & Awareness Coordinator

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at shamsa.derrick@yale.edu.

    Shamsa Derrick

    Women's Programming Coordinator

    More information coming soon. You can reach her at shamsa.derrick@yale.edu.

    Marwan Safar Jalani

    Direct Assistance Coordinator

    Marwan was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and graduated from high school in Bosnia and

    Herzegovina. At Yale, Marwan studies comparative literature

    and global affairs. Outside of YRP, Marwan is part of the Arab Student Association, Students of Salaam, and a spoken word group. Marwan is also an Arabic

    teaching assistant in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department, an Arabic translator in

    the Child Study Center and a student assistant in the Yale College Dean’s Office.

    You can reach him at marwan.safarjalani@yale.edu.

  • The YRP Catalog of Events

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  • Connect with us

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    YRP in the YDN

  • Resources for you

    Here are just a few of the available resources that we recommend to help you learn more.

    Harper Loonsk, YRP CO-PResident 2016-2017

    My intention with this anthology is to introduce forced migration in Oceania to Yale Refugee Project volunteers and Yale students more generally. I focus on the rebuttal of false narratives about Oceania and on the legacy of foreign influence on the degradation of the region.


    News about refugees and displaced people, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.

    A Narrative timeline

    The Refugee Project is a narrative, temporal map of refugee migrations since 1975. We’ve used UN data to visualize refugee volumes over time and added a layer of historical content to help explain the events that caused some of the largest refugee movements of the last four decades.

    Beyond states of emergency

    In its most profound essence this work is telling us that we somehow think that those who lack a nation-state, a paramount construct of our globalized world view, are somehow lesser humans than we are. Thus we can shuffle these people around in ways that both suit our political purposes and also enhance our own self-image as humanitarians taking care of victims. This works until the victims, showing less than subservient gratitude, find their own voices and follow their own agendas. This concept is being challenged more and more, politicians as well as society are recognizing a different reality. Refugees won’t play the victim any longer.

    Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services

    IRIS resettles approximately 200 refugees each year.  IRIS also provides some services to asylees and other immigrants.  Currently, IRIS’s refugee clients come from Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and other countries.

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