I’m the co-founder and executive director of AsylumConnect, a tech nonprofit providing the first and only digital resource platform for the tens of thousands of LGBTQ asylum seekers fleeing their homes and communities for safer ground each year. At AsylumConnect, we use technology to facilitate the safe navigation of people who are fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. My experience denying my own LGBTQ+ identity for over a decade drives me to ensure other LGBTQ+ people find the safety to live freely.
From leaving their dangerous home country to resettlement, it is often a matter of life-or-death for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to be able to easily identify and connect with legitimate and LGBTQ+ affirming lawyers and other direct service providers. Launched in 2016 in the U.S., the “AsylumConnect Catalog” is the first ever resource website and mobile app designed for LGBTQ+ asylum. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and other LGBTQ+ people in need (e.g. homeless LGBTQ+ youth) use the AsylumConnect Catalog as a free digital one-stop-shop referral site to meet all of their critical human needs, including: housing, legal, medical, mental health, translation, education and employment services. Lawyers also use AsylumConnect to easily gather verified medical, mental health and social service referrals for clients. During 2019, our platform was accessed by 12,949 users across 147 countries (over 9,500 users in the U.S.). We expect over 20,000 users on our platform during 2020.
Our free technology connects users with verified LGBTQ+ affirming and immigrant friendly services across 25 U.S. states and Canada. For holistic impact, our platform also includes translated resource pages for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who are in Mexico and those who are still in transit to a safer destination country. Our supporters include the Roddenberry Foundation, Brooklyn Community Foundation Immigrant Rights Fund, U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants (we're an Allied Agency of USCRI), J.M. Kaplan Fund, Urban Justice Center Social Justice Accelerator, Miller Center’s Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator, and Forbes 30 Under 30 (Class of 2020).
Our technology is currently connecting LGBTQ+ immigrants, LGBTQ students with nowhere to go due to early school and dorm closures, and other LGBTQ+ people in need with applicable affirming resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. (See our COVID-19 outreach toolkit for more information on our COVID-19 response.)
We’re seeking the following types of support:
- Funding: to hire additional staff to support our operations and growth.
- Remote volunteers: our Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator volunteers and interns are responsible for the day-to-day operations of our digital resource platform, including: online research and direct outreach to confirm organizations’ fit to list in our resource app of verified LGBTQ+ and immigrant friendly service providers, and data entry.
- Corporate partners: intros to corporate partners aligned with diversity, inclusion and acceptance to join our new corporate partnership program.
- Visibility: to acquire new users, donors, volunteers, partners and general supporters.
“If AsylumConnect had existed when I was applying for asylum it would have made my life much easier. AsylumConnect’s work truly saves lives. I was homeless for about three years because I could not find services for undocumented lesbians, work, or anyone who could explain to me how the immigration process work[ed] and what my options were." — Lesbian asylee