Q&A with new ORAM Executive Director –
Alight is all about finding others. It’s about inviting people and organizations in who understand those we serve deeply and, together, amplifying the good we can do. ORAM is one of those organizations. ORAM joined the Alight family last year and just this month welcomed a new Executive Director, Steve Roth.
What drew you to ORAM?
I was really drawn in by the incredible work that ORAM has done over the last 10 years and its reputation on the international stage as a thought leader and expert in the field of LGBTIQ migration. It was one of the first organizations globally dedicated to the protection of LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees worldwide. I am also really excited about ORAM’s partnership with Alight, as I see great synergies between the two organizations and the potential for meaningful collaborations that will leverage our respective strengths.
The most exciting prospect for me though is to be able to have a positive impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of the LGBTIQ community and take ORAM to the next phase in its development – particularly since the needs of LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees has changed dramatically in recent years.
Why are you passionate about the work that ORAM does with sexual and gender minority asylum seekers and refugees?
Prior to joining ORAM, I had the privilege of working to advance inclusion for LGBTIQ people in major corporations and multinationals. ORAM however, works with the most marginalized members of our community, who often face many of the same challenges of violence, discrimination and isolation even after they’ve left their countries of origin. Yet in spite of the hardships that many LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees face, they also demonstrate tremendous amounts of strength, hope and resilience. I’m inspired by who they are and am looking forward to the opportunity to help them find joy and improve their lives.
What are the biggest challenges doing this type of work?
It’s intrinsically challenging for LGBTIQ refugees as they’re doubly stigmatized and have significant and unique protection needs. At the same time, the landscape for LGBTIQ migration is changing and evolving rapidly, and ORAM needs to adapt and change to meet new needs. Another significant challenge is to engage a wider audience with our work and inspire people to care specifically about LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees and get involved to support these communities.
Who or what inspires you to keep pushing past the challenges, to keep working on these issues?
I am inspired by LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees themselves, especially by their strength and resilience. I believe they deserve a better life with equal treatment, opportunities and safety.
I’m also inspired by people we get to work with like Ekkolan, a Kenyan activist who confronts the impossible every day to bring hope and joy to people who most need it.
What’s the first thing you’re going to get to work on?
To start with, I’m listening and learning as much as possible about ORAM, its work, our partners and the needs of the people that we serve. As part of this, I am travelling to Kenya next week with a colleague from Alight to meet the LGBTIQ refugee population there. I am looking forward to seeing the work that Alight has already been doing on the ground and personally meet both the urban LGBTIQ refugees in Nairobi and the LGBTIQ refugees living in the Kakuma camp. Part of what I’ll be looking at is the best way to bring ORAM’s skills, resources and services to the community in Kenya and put into practice some of ORAM’s new approaches to the challenges LGBTIQ refugees face.
ORAM and Alight have a close relationship. How do you hope to make full use of the Alight platform to unleash abundance with the vulnerable refugees ORAM works with?
I hope that we can plug into Alight’s size, strength and experience with providing direct services to vulnerable refugees to expand and amplify ORAM’s work in new ways. I am eager to co-create future projects with Alight and nurture a lasting dialogue between both organizations where we can learn and grow from each other.
Which Alight value [Bravely Be Better, Do The Doable, Start With Giving, Be Human Centered, Spark Joy, Find Others, Choose Optimism] resonates most with you?
Alight’s values really resonate with me in general! The value Be Human Centered resonates with me in particular as I believe that listening to the stories and needs of LGBTIQ refugees and refocusing our work around them is core to the success of ORAM’s work.
I also connect with the value Spark Joy as underneath all the challenges and difficulties, there is also hope, resilience and strength. LGBTIQ refugees are an extremely vulnerable and marginalized community and it can be very easy to get wrapped up in the seriousness and the gravity of our work. However, it is equally important to find joy and be a catalyst of hope in these challenging times.