progress and change

Insight from Kiva on Meaningful Partnerships

Justin Renfro, our phenomenal guest speaker from Kiva Zip, shared his organization's innovative approach to micro-loans and entrepreneurship:

  • What does it mean to transform entrepreneurship into a community effort and democratize capital?
  • Risk tolerance enables us to go downstream and support MORE amazing start-ups and entrepreneurs that would otherwise be marginalized....

Progress and Passion From the Perspective of a Student in Public Health

Progress and Passion From the Perspective of a Student in Public Health

I've always been fascinated by what makes people happy. It helps to accomplish goals and feel successful, but happiness also stems from appreciating little joys in life and interacting with people we care about. Needs like shelter, food, health, and basic human rights are incredibly important to being able to appreciate the world around us; without them individuals are automatically put at a disadvantage in their pursuit of happiness.

Health in particular is interesting to me. A person's health is impacted by dozen of factors, ranging from individual choice to environmental conditions and genetics. Health is tied to their socioeconomic status, education level, geographic location and access to resources. 

MCC and Mama Hope: Finding My Passion

Coming into MCC, I had nothing but a swirl of emotions running through my head. Excitement, for the wonderful people that I knew I would meet. Curiosity, to learn more about the amazing work these youth leaders were doing in their respective areas. Amazement, for I had the opportunity to spend a week discussing issues of global relevance at the UN. However, I was also fearful. As a student, I had an interest in many different topics, including public health, women’s empowerment, and community outreach. I was struggling to find a way to integrate my passions in a meaningful and impactful way to serve the greater community. 

Lost in these thoughts, I went to different sessions at MCC hoping to meet others that were going through the same challenges that I was. One afternoon, I ended up just following some friends into a crowded workshop that I originally hadn’t planned on attending...

LGBTQ Asylum & the Global Refugee Crisis

 by Alex, AsylumConnect Secretary

On October 20th, the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) hosted a webinar with AsylumConnect on LGBTQ Asylum and the refugee crisis. I am the Secretary for the AsylumConnect team, which is part of the Millennium Campus Network's Peace Campaign. We had two fantastic speakers for the webinar, both of whom are advisors to AsylumConnect.

Fernando Chang-Muy is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and an expert in refugee law and policy. He gave attendees an overview of how the U.N. and the U.S. defined a refugee as a person who is unwilling or unable to return to his or her home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. LGBTQ asylum seekers cite the “social group” part of the definition as to why they have a fear of persecution.

Missed the live forum? Watch the recording here!

Chang-Muy took several questions from the audience, and one person asked if there is a refugee cap that the United States is willing to accept. Chang-Muy explained that the cap is 70,000 people divided between the 5 parts of the world (South America, Africa, etc.). The President said he would raise it to 80,000 people for the next year, and 10,000 spots will be reserved for Syrian refugees. It is the President who determines this cap. And the allotment divided throughout the world is fluid. If more spots are needed for a particularly war-torn area, the allotment for a peaceful part of the world can be minimized.

Trying to prove you are actually LGBTQ can be a challenge. Sometimes the only evidence is your own word.

Chang-Muy also spoke to the particular challenges LGBTQ asylum seekers face. Trying to prove you are actually LGBTQ can be a challenge. Sometimes the only evidence is your own word. For example, if you were in the closet in your home country, you do not have anyone to testify on your behalf. Also, it can be hard to prove you will be persecuted in your country of origin. Perhaps a country may seemingly be LGBTQ-friendly in its urban or tourist areas, but LGBTQ people could be severely discriminated against in rural areas.

Jacque Larrainzar, another AsylumConnect advisor, also spoke to her experience as an LGBTQ Refugee/Immigrant Outreach Specialist at Seattle Counseling Service (SCS). Larrainzar is the first lesbian from Mexico to receive asylum in the U.S. due to sexual orientation, and knows first hand how hard the process can be. She applied in 1997 and it took three years to be completed. Her current work includes creating specific training for mental health providers on the specific needs of asylees or immigrants or undocumented immigrants.  Larrainzar gave a great anecdote about her conversation with a girl in her 20's who is an asylee from Somalia. One thing she wants people to understand is that LGBTQ asylees are resilient, and should be acknowledged for their strength in overcoming adversity.

LGBTQ asylees are resilient, and should be acknowledged for their strength in overcoming adversity.

Finally, Katie Sgarro, Co-founder of AsylumConnect, spoke about what her organization is working on. AsylumConnect is a volunteer initiative that will seek to provide LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. with lifesaving online informational resources. We are working towards creating the first website and mobile app to feature an online, centralized database of service providers useful to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. The AsylumConnect catalog will help persecuted LGBTQ people find basic human needs resources upon their arrival in the U.S. It is estimated that our work will benefit 300,000 LGBTQ asylum seekers. We are currently working on a model of the catalog focused on services in Seattle, Washington.

Stay tuned for the next MCN webinar by AsylumConnect and visit to learn more about us.

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Solidarity Share - Cultivating Empathy

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

Marie-Esther Buh and Kei Pritsker

East Orange, New Jersey, USA and Weston, Connecticut USA


My name is Marie-Esther Buh and I live in East Orange, NJ. In my community, literacy is a problem. Literacy is literally the possession of education. For most people in my community, a High School Diploma, GED or some college education is their limit and this affects their level of understanding.  

My name is Kei Pritsker and I am from Weston, CT. Empathy is a challenge in my community. Weston is one of the wealthiest towns on the planet. My community does not empathize with struggling people because issues like poverty and war only exist within our textbooks; none of it is reality.

Marie: The biggest worries in my community are what people decide to eat and looking fashionable. People only care about what Chinese restaurant to buy from or what weave to put on. Important issues like keeping the environment clean or teaching the young falls through the cracks.

Kei: There are members of my community who participate in charity and I’m sure they do so with good intentions but charity is not solidarity. Charity removes the top from the struggles of the bottom. Solidarity respects people. Solidarity emphasizes mutual aid instead of dictation. My community is privileged because we can allow global issues to slip through the cracks without facing the consequences. However, issues like poverty, climate change and armed conflict don’t cease to exist because they’re out of sight.  

Marie: Issues like poverty, climate change and armed conflict are a reality for my community.Without empathy, understanding and solidarity, these issues will remain unresolved.These issues don’t respect borders; they will spread from one corner of the planet to another. Nobody is safe until everyone is cared for.

Kei: Solidarity requires communities from all different walks of life to unite for a common struggle. We cannot do this alone. We want to work with you to explore the possible solutions.

Both: Our vision is your vision.