Refugee Crisis: How is the World Responding?
Learn about humanitarian and resettlement efforts for refugees in the U.S. and abroad on Friday, Dec. 9, from 9 to 11 a.m., at Antioch University Santa Barbara, 602 Anacapa Street, Community Hall.
Syrian refugees are getting most of the publicity, but they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to displaced persons. Thanks to local wars, famines, floods, and political upheavals, some 65 million people have had to flee their homes in recent decades. It’s the largest migration in human history.
Co-sponsored by AUSB and the Anti-Defamation League, the event features 28 works of art on the crisis. These 28 pieces are a collection of designs showing how diverse and universal the refugee experience truly is.
Confirmed speakers include Noel Bezette-Flores, a leader in United Nations resettlement efforts in Houston, Texas; Joseph T. Harrison, Program Manager, Asia/Middle East for Direct Relief; Victoria Riskin, a member of Human Rights Watch’s national board; Cyndi Silverman, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League; and Marina Andina, who spent the last ten years in Africa on relief missions.
“Refugee resettlement is one of the most pressing matters facing the world today, influencing everything from Brexit to our recent presidential election,” said Barbara Greenleaf, Antioch’s Associate Vice Chancellor of External Affairs. “Unfortunately, most of us know little beyond the headlines. This discussion will give us real context.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Silverman added, “As a social justice/human relations organization, ADL has been advocating for refugee rights not only because it is the morally right thing to do, but because, once, we were strangers, too.”
The event is free and open to the public with no RSVP required.
About the speakers
Noël Bezette-Flores holds a PhD in Education Psychology and Differences. Dr. Bezette-Flores has over 15 years experience in research with immigrant and refugee children in schools and immigrant and refugee family resettlement.
For many years, Bezette-Flores has actively engaged the community with outreach. She has won regional, state, and national honors for her service. She developed partnerships and supervised students in school districts and nonprofits, resulting in awards from the Texas State Teachers Association and the National Education Association.
In 2012, Dr. Flores was appointed as Executive Director for the Center for Public Service and Family Strengths at the University of Houston Downtown’s College of Public Service, where she oversaw civic engagement and service-learning projects for UHD, culminating in assisting the institution in attaining the prestigious Carnegie Foundation Classification for an Engaged University.
Currently she is CEO of Innovate at Work, a consulting firm for community based development, strategical reorganization, curriculum development, assessment, and leadership development.
One of her most recent community based initiatives is Be the Peace, Be the Hope, an educational healing art program that connects youth in major cities in the U.S. with youth in UNHCR refugee camps.
Bezette-Flores’ commitment to community service led to her appointment by Mayor Annise D. Parker to the board of directors of Houston Media Source (HMS). She served as co-chair of Houston’s Citizenship Month, which she helped lead for seven years. The city-wide initiative, held each year in November, celebrates Houston’s diversity and opportunity for people of all nationalities, faiths, and cultures, while encouraging civic responsibility, volunteerism, and promoting the rights and responsibilities of good citizenship. Working with Mayor Parker, First Lady Kathy Hubbard, and Houston’s Office of International Communities, Bezette-Flores helped build Citizenship Month to a region-wide series of celebrations, expanding from two events in 2009 to hundreds of local events with thousands of participants and nearly 100 organizations. In 2013, she was named one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women by Houston Woman Magazine and was honored by Mayor Parker for her work with a Proclamation Declaring February 10, 2015 as Dr. Noël Bezette-Flores Day. Some of her other service includes: UNA-Houston Board, UNA-USA Education Committee, METRO Academy Community Partner, Mayors Advisory Committee for International Communities, Volunteer Houston Board, Red Cross Board Marketing and Outreach Committee and the National Points of Light Conference Education Track co-chair, and Welcoming Houston initiatives-education and economic development task force for immigrants and refugees.
Bezette-Flores has published several articles in academic journals based on her research on homeless youth, international communities, refugee and immigrant family resettlement, and on her work on civic engagement and service through initiatives such as Citizenship Month and her efforts to build strong and sustainable community organizations.
Joseph T. Harrison is the Program Manager for Europe, Middle East, and Asia for Direct Relief. He has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and Asia on behalf of Direct Relief, assessing medical needs and delivering aid to charitable healthcare providers in vulnerable communities affected by natural disasters and civil unrest. He’s a UCSB graduate with a genuine passion for people.
Founded in 1948 and privately funded, Direct Relief is the largest U.S.-based nonprofit provider of essential medication and supplies for emergency situations and ongoing humanitarian assistance. Since January 2015, Direct Relief has provided $1.4 billion in private aid – 3500 tons of specifically requested medications and basic commodities – to over 80 countries.
Victoria Riskin was a writer and producer for television with credits that include The Last Best Year, The Member of the Wedding, My Antonia, A Town Torn Apart, and World War II: When Lions Roared. She is past President of the Writers Guild of America West, the union representing 8500 screen and television writers. She was a Trustee and Chair of the Writers and Producers Pension and Health Fund and founding Chair of Hollywood Health and Society. She received the Chairman’s Award by the Caucus of Writers, Producers and Directors for her leadership role in the Creative Community’s fight against media concentration; the Justice Rose Bird Person of Courage Award by Death Penalty Focus; the Horace Mann Alumna of the Year Award by Antioch University Los Angeles; and the Human Rights-Defender of the First Amendment Award by the ACLU of Southern California. In January, she received the Writers Guild of America West 2009 Valentine Davies Award in recognition of contributions to the entertainment industry and community at large, which have brought dignity and honor to writers everywhere.
Dr. Riskin was a founding member of Human Rights Watch/California and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Santa Barbara Committee of Human Rights Watch. She is a director emerita of the International Board of Human Rights Watch and was chair of the Hellman-Hammett Committee that oversaw the distribution of funds from the estate of Lillian Hellman to writers persecuted around the world. She serves on the Board of Directors of NPR station KCRW and co-chairs the Santa Barbara Advisory Committee of KCRW. She has a BA in Humanities from USC, a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California. She had a private practice as a psychologist before becoming a screenwriter and producer of movies-for-television. Ms. Riskin now resides fulltime in Santa Barbara with her husband, award-winning writer and producer David W. Rintels.
Cyndi Silverman joined the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as its Regional Director for the Santa Barbara Tri-Counties Region in April 2008.
From 1995 to 1998, Ms. Silverman worked for the United States Agency for International Development, West Bank/Gaza Mission, a branch of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. In her capacity in the Executive Office of USAID, she organized numerous congressional visits within Israel and the West Bank in addition to working on Secretary of State visits. While at USAID she had the opportunity to participate in numerous meetings with high level United States and Israeli government officials.
Prior to Ms. Silverman’s time in Israel, she worked professionally as the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. She has served on numerous boards of directors for Jewish organizations.
From 1979-2001, Ms. Silverman and her late husband Dr. Julian Silverman owned an organizational development consulting firm, working with hospitals, medical clinics, investment banking companies, and small privately owned businesses.
In the late 1970s Ms. Silverman lived and worked at Esalen Institute in Big Sur.
Ms. Silverman, a native Californian, attended San Diego State University and has a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Psychology. She has a 30-year-old daughter, Samantha Silverman, currently a graduate student at the Yale Divinity School.
Marina Andina spent a decade working for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) both overseas and in the United States. She has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in West Africa and was Deputy Director of the Resettlement Support Centers in both Austria and Kenya before joining the Department of State in 2013. As the Overseas Section Chief for the Office of Refugee Admissions at the Department of State, she was responsible for overseeing global refugee processing to the United States and ensuring that the global network of 9 NGO managed Resettlement Support Centers were working effectively and efficiently. In late 2015, Marina left the Department of State to return to her home in Santa Barbara, where she currently lives.