Zoë Reidinger Helps LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Point Scholars are required to complete an annual Community Service Project (CSP) that will positively impact the LGBTQ community.  Here is a highlight of Point Scholar Zoë Reidinger’s recent CSP.

Zoe_Asylum-Seekers1

My CSP focused on the creation of a guidebook book to introduce new asylum seekers to the U.S. and Worcester, MA and to serve as an overview of the asylum process. When LGBTQ asylum seekers arrive in the United States, they are frequently injured, scared, and have no resources for even basic needs. Working with the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, I created an introductory guidebook for asylum seekers in the greater Worcester area. I compiled all the information in this book by conducting interviews and researching refugee and asylum literature to ease the transition for new asylum seekers in Worcester now and in the future.

Map indicating legal status of LGBT individuals around the world

Map indicating the legal status of LGBT individuals around the world. Black indicates current illegality.2

LGBT individuals:

  • in 72 countries can be punished with jail time
  • in 7 countries can be executed1

These individuals can seek asylum in the United States. However, the asylum process can take years, and during this time asylum seekers are not allowed to be employed.

Zoe_guidebook

A) A photograph of the guidebook’s cover. B) A photograph of an asylum seeker at the Boston Pride Parade symbolizing the invisibility of LGBT persons in other nations by wearing a paper bag over his head.

Guidebook Conents

Basic Needs

  • Safety
  • Laws about LGBT rights
  • Worcester map
  • American expectations
    • Time
    • Tipping
  • Posting mail
  • Grocery stores
  • Riding the bus
  • Train to Boston
  • Traveling
  • Placing phone calls
  • American holidays
  • Local gyms
  • Library

Social Needs

  • Volunteer opportunities
  • LGBT friendly worship
  • Intro to free Boston and Worcester

Legal Needs

  • Preparation for lawyer
  • Basics of asylum
  • Finding a lawyer

Medical Needs

  • Basics
  • 911
  • US health insurance   system
  • Privacy – HIPPA
  • How to apply for Mass   Health Limited
  • Dental
  • Nutritionist
  • Pharmacy
  • Primary care
  • HIV clinic
  • Walk-in clinic
  • Mental health

Post Asylum Needs

  • Resume writing
  • Intro to taxes
  • Work card basics

The guidebook was presented to the task force at the May board meeting and was met with much excitement. The future of this project is to move to a digital, online format so that edits can be made immediately and the information can be accessed outside of Worcester.

zoe_task_Force_group

Members of the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force and asylees

I wish to first acknowledge all of the current and future asylum seekers for their bravery and sacrifice. Next, I would like to that Pastor Judy Hanlon for her kindness and time. In addition, I would like to specifically thank Thomas, Mercy, Azmin, Leslie, Donna, Jean, Tarrik, and the other intentionally anonymous asylum seekers. Thank you for all of your help and openness to my questions.

This post was written by Zoë Reidinger
Zoe Reidinger is from Brevard, NC and is currently pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her research focuses specifically on vascular tissue engineering. Currently, Zoe is dedicated to teaching while finishing research for her PhD. After graduation she hopes to use her career in tissue engineering to help improve female to male surgeries, as well as teach on the collegiate level. Learn more about Zoë.

References

1. lgbtasylum.org
2. Wikipedia, “LGBT rights by country or territory.” Last modified September 23, 2012. Accessed July 10, 2013. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory.