Boston Center for Refugee Health
&  Human Rights Newsletter
In This Issue (Click on Title)
A Night of Remembrance & Rejoicing
Our Mission
The Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights is committed to improving the health and quality of life of refugees and torture survivors through a holistic model of health care provision coordinated with legal aid and social services, training, advocacy, and research.  
Want to Help?
We gratefully accept financial donations, as they help us continue and enhance our holistic caring for refugees and survivors of torture.
We are committed to serving those in need regardless of their status or ability to pay.
Your donation helps us offer our dynamic program, which goes beyond the traditional medical model to meet our patients' needs, and a growing demand for care.
It's easy to raise money for BCRHHR by searching the Internet with, or shopping online with 
Use it just as you would any search engine, get quality search results from Yahoo, and watch the donations add up!
 Be sure to enter "Boston Medical Center - Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights" as the charity you want to support.
We are currently recruiting volunteers to help with our Refugee Patient Navigator Program.
Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List
TopJuly 2010
This newsletter includes an update from Hannah Nersasian, one of our volunteers for the Refugee Patient Navigator Program (RPNP).  The RPNP was implemented more than eight months ago and it has already become an invaluable asset to our work here. The program utilizes volunteers, usually students in public health, nursing, social work, and medicine, to provide extra assistance to our clients.

Hannah Nersasian volunteers three days a week. Unlike the majority of our volunteers, Hannah is not a student.  She moved to Boston from the U.K. four months ago and decided to volunteer while she waited for employment authorization. Hannah worked with refugees in England on a refugee mentoring scheme and wanted to gain experience working with refugees in Boston.  Hannah's article provides insight into what it's like to be a Refugee Patient Navigator, and how volunteering benefits the volunteers themselves. It's also a reminder of how the seemingly insignificant, everyday things that may be taken for granted, can add to the picture of confusion and disorientation faced by refugees and asylum seekers when they arrive in the United States.

Hannah Nersasian, Volunteer Refugee Patient Navigator

Hannah N.
Today I met someone who had never seen Rice Krispies before. Someone who had never heard of cereal. Any cereal. 

Imagine that.

I know it's not exactly an integral part of our existence but just imagine.

No snap

No crackle

No pop

The thing that baffled me was not so much the lack of cereal experience. If I'd never eaten rice krispies I think I'd be OK .  What confounded me was the degree of separation from western culture that lack of rice-krispie knowledge represents.

Now imagine that the person who has never heard of rice krispies has arrived in America. Friendless, homeless and emotionally scarred because of experiences that drove them to leave their family, friends, home and familiar breakfast food. Neither permitted to work nor entitled to benefits. Able to speak 5 languages but none of them English. Expected to navigate an immigration system so abstruse and dense that I, (a person who has grown up with rice-krispies, albeit in the U.K.) lost considerable amounts of sleep, saline and sanity because of it.

And if they fail to navigate that system - if they fail to attend appointments for health assessments, biometrics and immigration interviews - if they can't afford to get to the appointments or are so overwhelmed by this country they're scared to leave the house, then they become an 'illegal immigrant' and are immediately thought of by the masses as the scourge of society.
This is where organizations like Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) step in. They extend warmth,  welcome and practical help to people who have experienced the worst of this world and then find themselves in America - technically 'safe' but in reality exposed and disoriented.
Volunteering as a Patient Navigator at BCRHHR is not your typical volunteering opportunity. It comes with real responsibility, which is slightly daunting at first but which means that volunteers have a genuine sense of having contributed. Not only that but we volunteers get to meet and help some of the most interesting and remarkable people in the world. Literally.
As a new immigrant to the US myself (I moved from England in February to marry an American) I've often felt intense homesickness and a longing for the familiar. Tears pricked my eyes in the pharmacy last week because I didn't recognize any of the brands of face-wash (I wish I were exaggerating). But volunteering at BCRHHR gives me the reality check and perspective I need. For all the times I am homesick, at least I know that my family is safe from harm. For all the times I miss chocolate digestives and sausages (you think you have them here but you don't), at least I have the means to buy food. For all the times I long for the familiar, at least I speak the language.

At least I know what rice-krispies are.

~Written by Hannah Nersasian
A Night of Remembrance & Rejoicing

Pastor Sam Mutyaba from New Life International Ministry.

On June 24, 2010, BCRHHR and the Health and Human Rights Caucus at BU School of Public Health presented A Night of Remembrance & Rejoicing. This annual gala event recognizes the United Nations Day in Support of Survivors of Torture. Over 160 clients, community members, and partners of the BCRHHR attended this year.
The Master of Ceremonies, Pastor Samuel Mutyaba of New Life International Ministry, captivated and engaged the audience with lively, poetic introductions.  Mr. Isaac Nsubuga of Uganda was the first speaker of the night, giving a dignified speech calling for a world free of torture. The Honored Guest Speaker, Mr. Baktyt Beshimov of Kyrgyzstan, spoke eloquently of the importance of democratic governance and eliminating oppression.  And finally, Dr. Charles Clement, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, delivered an inspiring speech about the crucial role of refugees and asylum seekers in shaping the United States.
The BCRHHR presented its annual Ubuntu Award to the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center for their dedication to providing asylum seekers with free legal assistance and affordable mental health counseling.
The gala's Fashion Show brought together participants from all corners of the globe who proudly walked the runway to the music of DJ Mazda Jalali. Mary Munyiri from Kenya sang "Time for Change in Africa," a song she wrote and produced.  The program also included musical performances by Andrew Salo of the BU College of Fine Arts, Dave Huddleston of the Berklee College of Music and the Yanvalou Drum & Dance Ensemble of Wellesley College. The celebration concluded with open dancing and drumming. 
BCRHHR has hosted this event for six consecutive years and this year's program was the most moving and joyous thus far.  Our clients, partners and staff look forward this occasion as an opportunity to take a step back from our busy lives, reflect upon our individual and shared experiences, and celebrate resilience, hope and courage. 
We hope you can join us next year! 
Thank you for reading!
The Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights