Interview with Advocates for Asylum Founder
Project: Advocates for Asylum records testimonials of asylum seekers in Israel through video testimonials, graphic novels, and other platforms. We then distribute the testimonials to policy makers to encourage an objective asylum application process.
In one sentence, tell us who you are.
Advocate, debate coach, and artist. I think all of these areas overlap and strengthen each other.
What inspired you to embark on the path of an innovator?
Introducing Israelis to asylum seekers had a bigger impact than me talking to them about immigrants. I saw that there were a lot of people in public and the Knesset who didn't know about what was happening in the country of origin. Once they met refugees their opinions changed about deportation.
What challenges do you foresee in your field?
Encouraging people to see testimonials. Testimonials need to be edited to be as powerful and persuasive as possible, and they need to be appealing. People may turn a blind eye.
Who can you relate to in Jewish history (or in your field of interest)?
My great aunt. She was deported from the United States back to the concentration camps where she was killed. She is someone whom I admire from my own family history and she was also a symbolic part of Jewish history. I remember looking at her photographs from the United States—she was fashionable, happy, and courageous to come to the United States where she hoped to find freedom for herself and her son, who did manage to stay in the United States and was not deported. She even managed to gain official political asylum, but the court decision came only after she was deported and could not be flown back because she was already killed in the concentration camp. Her story reminds me of the sense of urgency surrounding the issues of today's Darfurians, South Sudanese, Congolese, Eritreans, Liberians, and other asylum seekers, and the necessity of providing asylum as soon as possible.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned from the PresenTense community?
Importance of an output and outcome you can assess; it's not enough just to say there is a refugee rights problem.
Who have you met at PresenTense that has made the most impact on your project?
Everyone has been instrumental in helping me with my project.
What big question are you struggling with right now?
Where I will get the resources to do my project successfully? Making videos effective with the help of top editors. How to distribute graphic novels. Assessment-my work's impact on policy.
If all goes as planned, where will your project be one year from now?
I will have recorded fifty well-edited video testimonials and completed five graphic novels seen by a majority of members of Knesset. Knesset members will support legislation for Asylum and gain the same understanding on the rest of the refugee situation they have about Darfur.
What do you hope to see change / to help change in your field in the next ten years?
Assumptions among public policy makers and civil servants that asylum seekers are not in fact refugees.
What is your vision for the future of PresenTense?
More opportunities for collaboration because it's a lot more effective to collaborate. Reunion, shared funds directed towards collaboration, and Connections between fellows from different years.
Mollie is just one of 16 fellows from the PresenTense Global Fellowship's Class of 2010. Read and learn about the others here.