• 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, but in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, resettled over 500 refugees—more than New York or Los Angeles.


    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. In partnership with, and in support of, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), the local resettlement agency, we are 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. Our most recent effort is launching a mother-daughter group in order to reach the local refugee population in a culturally appropriate setting. This group aims to enrich the lives of young women through art and help older women practice English.
    In addition to aiding local refugees, YRP advocates for the cause of refugees. We organize against bans on refugees both on campus and in our city. We host talks with experts in refugee law; we urge public officials to end the detention of families seeking asylum in the United States. We also host yearly trips to the US-Mexico border for participants to learn about family detention and volunteer with legal aid non-profits helping prepare asylum cases. Through both direct assistance and advocacy, YRP hopes to redefine Yale’s relationship with refugees and provide an example for how other undergraduates might engage with their own refugee communities.

    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, a junior history major and member of the Human Rights Program, first began volunteering with YRP three years ago. She loved New Haven and the friendships she made with recently resettled women, and loved working with young Afghan and Syrian refugee children as an intern at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). Outside of YRP, Rosa works as a Arabic Teaching Assistant for the Department of Near Eastern Language and Civilizations, edits for the Yale Review of International Studies, and volunteers with the New Haven Legal Aid Association. You can always reach her at rosa.shapiro-thompson@yale.edu!

    Laura Plata

    Vice President

    Laura is a junior majoring in Ethics, Politics, and Economics with a particular focus on immigration and refugee studies. You can reach her at laura.plata@yale.edu.


    Trinh Truong

    Director of Advocacy

    Trinh is a junior majoring in Political Science with a focus on political philosophy. Trinh advocates for refugees and immigrants not just through YRP but also as a Dwight Hall Urban Fellow at the Immigrant Bail Fund. You can also find Trinh leading tours at the Yale University Art Gallery. You can reach her at trinh.truong@yale.edu.

    Yasamin Sharifi

    Director of Woen's Programming

    Yasamin is a junior in the Human Rights Program majoring in Environmental Studies. Yasamin translates for Afghan refugees in New Haven, and this past summer worked as a research assistant for the Yale Child Study Center on food security among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Yasamin also is a member of the Equestrian Club and tutors Farsi! You can reach her at yasamin.sharifi@yale.edu.

    Huy Truong

    Director of Men's Programming

    Huy Truong is a junior Economics major from Kentwood, Michigan. He is very thankful to have gotten to know some of the young refugees in New Haven, and is excited about how YRP can help expand the city's definition of community. You can reach him at huy.truong@yale.edu.

  • Shamsa Derrick

    Women's Programming Coordinator

    Shamsa is a prospective Political Science major from New York City. She is currently studying Portuguese and Spanish and is interested in refugee and immigration policy as well as issues surrounding border conflict. Outside of YRP she is involved with the Yale Black Women's Coalition, Fair Haven Tutoring, Danceworks and works as a College Aide. You can reach her at shamsa.derrick@yale.edu.

    Michelle Phan

    Women's Programming Coordinator

    Michelle is a freshman Applied Math major from Anaheim, California. She hopes (and is excited) to create a larger space for women refugees in New Haven. Her favorite part of YRP is getting to know the refugee community in New Haven and forming new relationships with the city’s refugees. Apart from YRP, Michelle writes for the Yale Scientific Magazine and works in a computational biology lab on campus. You can reach her at michelle.phan@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.

    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.

    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.

    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 Waskevich

    Direct Assistance Coordinator

    Dan is a sophomore from Worcester, MA, majoring in Psychology. He is particularly interested in the cross-section of human rights issues, identity, and mental health services. Outside of YRP, Dan volunteers with No Closed Doors and Yale Children's Theater, and tries to play rugby when not injured. You can reach him at daniel.waskevich@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.

  • The YRP Catalog of Events

    Please visit our Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on YRP!

    Farah al-Qasimi and Julia Rooney of the Yale School of Art and Yale University Art Gallery hosted a multimedia art workshop for a group of Iraqi refugee women and YRP volunteers. This workshop marked our second female-only event, after a mother-daughter tea at Dwight Hall the week before. We are...
    Thank you to everyone who ran, marched, and made both events happen! IRIS witnessed its largest turnout for the annual fundraiser, now in its tenth year, ever, with over 2,500 registered runners and almost 3,500 marchers at the demonstration's peak. Find the Yale Refugee Project's photo album...
    January 27, 2017
    The day following President Donald J. Trump's signing of two executive orders concerning immigration into the U.S., co-president Maria urged Yale students to protect a haven and a home here.
    Dear President Donald Trump, The Yale Refugee Project, an undergraduate group of students dedicated to supporting refugee resettlement in New Haven through friendship and community building, urges you to uphold the United States Refugee Act of 1980, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and to continue...
    December 13, 2016
    For our last event of 2016, we came together at Silliman College for all the fun and games (and popcorn) we could fit into one afternoon, including watching Kung Fu Panda and playing Silliman's many games!
    Thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday for a conversation with Yale's incredible Professor Benhabib. And thank you to Trinh for facilitating the discussion.
    On December third we organized an afternoon of fun and games in Yale's Dwight Hall. We speed-wrapped mummies, danced, played uno, played soccer, and wrote new years resolutions.
    Whatever the national rhetoric about refugees, we continue and will continue to welcome and actively support refugees in New Haven and across the globe. No refugee or immigrant should have to live in fear. On Wednesday we invited members of the Yale community to demonstrate their support for...
    To our Yale community and our New Haven community, to those refugee friends that our direct assistance team supports and those we have yet to meet, to those who have been unequivocally supportive of our work as well as those who have quietly or boldly spoken against what we do:   The Yale Refugee...
    We were fortunate last Saturday to have Cassandra Basler from NPR attend our Halloween Party and produce a segment for NPR's All Things considered. We are thrilled with the feedback we received from the Yale community and from IRIS about the segment. YRP co-president Harper Loonsk spoke with Ms....
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  • Connect with us

    Please visit our Facebook page for the most up to date information about what YRP is up to and how to get involved!


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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.

    Harper Loonsk, YRP CO-PResident 2016-2017 and Lauren Cueto

    Attached is a summary of deportation procedures. This is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the lived experiences of deported individuals and the often arbitrary methods that Immigration and Customs Enforcement employs.

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