Refuge Point Founder/Executive Director Sasha Chanoff of Somerville One of Many Honored at White House as World Refugee Day Champion of Change

This past Thursday, RefugePoint Founder and Executive Director Sasha Chanoff was honored at the White House as a World Refugee Day Champion of Change.

RefugePoint ( is a Cambridge-based organization that provides lasting solutions for the world’s most vulnerable refugees.

The Champions of Change event is part of an ongoing effort by the White House Task Force on New Americans to build welcoming communities and is also part of broader U.S. government efforts to respond to challenges faced by refugees.

According to the UNHCR Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2014 report ( ) more people are now displaced by conflict than ever recorded. There are now 59.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. If all of the forcibly displaced persons were a nation, they would make up the 24th largest nation in the world. In 2014 alone, an estimated 13.9 million individuals were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution.

The White House commemorated World Refugee Day by highlighting resettled refugees and individuals who are leading efforts to make a difference in the lives of refugees in the United States and abroad. The White House press release is attached.

Office of Communications
June 22, 2015

White House Honors World Refugee Day “Champions of Change”

WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, June 25th, the White House will recognize ten individuals who are making a difference in the lives of refugees in the United States and abroad as World Refugee Day “Champions of Change.” This event is part of an annual commemoration to recognize the challenges faced by refugees and to reaffirm our commitment to help them overcome those challenges. In honor of World Refugee Day, we celebrate the courage and resilience of those who flee violence and persecution, and the dedication of those individuals who provide protection and assistance to refugees abroad and ensure a warm reception for them here in the United States. This event also builds on the work of the White House Task Force on New Americans, which is focused on building welcoming communities and strengthening of immigrant and refugee integration efforts. The program will feature remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz. United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power is also scheduled to participate.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit on June 25th at 1:40 PM ET. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.

Mone Aye, Des Moines, Iowa
Mone Aye was born in the Mae La Refugee camp in Thailand and lived there for the first 19 years of her life. In 2008, Mone resettled in the United States, then became a United States citizen in July 2014. Mone is a co-founder and the board president of Ethnic Minority of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), a grassroots, refugee-led organization that seeks to meet the unique and often neglected needs of Iowa’s growing population of refugees from Burma, and a Bilingual Community Outreach Worker in the Des Moines Public School System.

Sasha Chanoff, Somerville, Massachusetts
Sasha Chanoff has worked for two decades in refugee rescue, relief, and resettlement operations in Africa and the United States. He is the founder and executive director of RefugePoint, a humanitarian organization that advocates for lasting solutions for refugees through expanding resettlement and local integration opportunities. Prior to starting RefugePoint, Sasha consulted with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kenya, and worked with the International Organization for Migration throughout Africa and the Jewish Vocational Service in Boston. He holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.A. from The Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Anna Crosslin, St. Louis, Missouri
Anna Crosslin has served as President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) for nearly 37 years. Founded in 1919, the IISTL is the region’s Welcoming Center for New Americans. The Institute provides integrative services to 7,500 clients annually from 80 countries. IISTL’s services include Missouri’s largest refugee resettlement program with 600 refugees sponsored annually, and the organization has helped start or expand more than 600 refugee-owned businesses since 1999. Anna has also been instrumental in the founding and operation of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, a nationally-recognized multi-sector led immigration attraction initiative. Born in Tokyo and raised in America, Anna is uniquely aware of the challenges that language and culture present to refugee newcomers.

Ben Gucciardi, Berkeley, California
Ben Gucciardi is the founder of Soccer Without Borders (SWB), a non-profit organization whose mission is to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of underserved youth, providing them with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion and personal success. Each year, Soccer Without Borders’ USA programs create positive team communities for over 750 newcomer refugee, asylee and immigrant youth in Baltimore, Maryland, Boston, Massachusetts, Greeley, Colorado, and Oakland, California. Ben is a former collegiate and semi-professional soccer player and holds a Master’s degree in Global Educational Leadership from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Micheal Ighodaro, Bronx, New York
Micheal Ighodaro joined AVAC, an organization that advocates for HIV prevention to end AIDS, in the fall of 2014 as a Program and Policy Assistant. Micheal is a passionate advocate for LGBTI rights and HIV prevention. Originally from Nigeria, Micheal had to flee his country after he was attacked due to his sexual orientation and work. Prior to joining AVAC, Micheal worked in HIV prevention and care for the LGBTI community in Africa for many years. He has also worked with Housing Works and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York. Micheal is a member of several HIV/LGBT advocacy groups around Africa. Micheal is currently a student of the City University of New York.

Nadia Kasvin, Columbus, Ohio
Nadia Kasvin started her career in refugee resettlement 21 years ago when she came to the United States as a refugee from Ukraine. In 2003, Nadia co-founded US Together, Inc., a state-wide resettlement agency and mutual assistance association. During her career, Nadia has been involved in advocating on behalf of the refugee and immigrant population. Nadia has extensive experience in developing and presenting various cross-cultural and cultural sensitivity programs, and has worked extensively to establish programs for numerous constituencies. Currently, US Together has operations in Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo, Ohio, and resettles up to 900 refugees a year.

Zeljka Krvavica, Des Moines, Iowa
Zeljka Krvavica came to the United States in 1993 as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina after fleeing her home in war-ravaged Sarajevo. Since then she has devoted her life to helping other refugees make Iowa home. She works as a Refugee Case Manager with the Iowa’s Bureau of Refugee Services in Des Moines and as Iowa State Delegate with the UNHCR Refugee Congress. She has also served as a volunteer in several capacities, including establishing and conducting clinics for the refugees seeking lawful permanent resident status; serving as the founding member of the Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association; and acting as a Cultural Ambassador for CultureAll, a non-profit organization, which provides cultural and diversity workshops and trainings for school children in Iowa. She is also an advocate for refugee women’s rights.

Mariela Shaker, Monmouth, Illinois
Mariela Shaker, born in 1990 in Aleppo, Syria, started playing the violin at the age of ten when she joined the Arabic Institute of Music in Aleppo. Mariela was a very active performer in Syria and took part in many festivals and concerts in Aleppo. Mariela has received many accolades in Syria and was invited to participate in the Dubai Arabian Competition and to play with the Emirate’s Youth Symphony Orchestra. In 2009, she joined the Syndicate of Artists in Syria. Mariela taught the violin for five years at the Arabic Institute of Music. In 2011, she gave a live audition in London, and subsequently received an offer to complete her music studies in the Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music. In 2013, Mariela received a scholarship to attend Monmouth College in Illinois to study Music Performance. She applied for asylum in the United States as she was unable to return to her war-torn home in Syria. Her parents and a brother remain in Aleppo. Mariela has been awarded a full-tuition academic scholarship to study for her Master’s in Music Performance at DePaul University.

Marwan Sweedan, Boise, Idaho
Marwan Sweedan graduated from Baghdad Medical School in 2003. Between 2003 and 2007, he worked as a doctor at Ramadi Hospital and with the Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation (SDC), helping mentally and physically challenged patients. He also worked as a project manager with the Coalition Force in Iraq. He was displaced to Jordan where he worked both as a doctor at the Italian Hospital and as a consultant for an insurance company. He came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, where he worked in a biotech company while volunteering with Upwardly Global, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping skilled refugees and other immigrants build careers in the United States. He joined the United States Army as a combat medic. After he finished his service in 2013, he engaged heavily with Global Talent Idaho, a new workforce development initiative working with refugees, resettlement organizations, and businesses to help and advise professional refugees. He is currently studying for his medical license in Idaho and preparing to apply for a graduate degree.

Gatluak Ter Thach, Nashville, Tennessee
Gatluak Ter Thach, PhD, is founder and current President and CEO of Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE). Gat was a refugee and former child soldier from South Sudan who came to the United States in 1996 without knowing a word of English, but quickly enrolled in English classes while working two jobs to support himself and his younger brother. The organization he founded, NICE, is a nonprofit community-based organization that provides direct social services and educational programs for refugees and immigrants in Middle Tennessee. In 2010, NICE became an affiliate of Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC). Under Gat’s leadership, NICE fostered collaborations and communal responsibility among various organizations in Middle Tennessee and across the country. From its inception in 2005, NICE has gone from serving Sudanese refugees to aiding refugees and immigrants from 72 different countries. In addition to his role at NICE, he also serves on several leadership boards, including the Sudanese Human Rights Organization, Advisory Council of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the Nashville Mayor’s New American Advisory Council, Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Sudanese Presbyterian Church, Alliance for South Sudanese in Diaspora, South Sudan Relief Rehabilitation Agency – USA, among others.

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