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Director's Corner - November 2019

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

The crisp autumn air heralds a change of season and offers a chance to reflect – as one enjoys the fruits of the harvest. It remains for us to appreciate our blessings, whether the year has been lean or plentiful. We take stock of what we can do moving forward to enhance the prospects for future bounties.

First, we would like to acknowledge and thank all of you who have walked with us during this past cycle of clearing, planting, tending and nurturing. Thanks to your efforts, we stand in a more assured space in many ways, despite the purposeful and vitriolic ways outside forces seek to marginalize and menace our clients.

We have far to go, but it is worthwhile to reflect on recent accomplishments, even as we prepare for the coming winter. We appreciate our community members, and wish to underscore how our achievements are the fruits of the seeds sown, connections made, and efforts concretized during the past year. Thank you.

For example, we recently received word that the United Nations will provide funding to help us respond to the ongoing asylum crisis in our community, especially for those who are suffering extended separations from their families. This emergency funding will allow us to hire a caseworker to help Mr. John Wilkinson (our stellar, overworked, Legal Services Manager) while helping our Care Coordination Team to cope with increasing numbers of people seeking programmatic intakes. It will also help us to coordinate with the newly formed Asylum Clinics at NYU School of Medicine and Pace University’s Graduate School of Psychology. We were able to effectively describe the need, deliver appropriate data and justifications, and develop a plan that the UN found to be compelling, reasonable, and justified. These seeds are now producing yield.

Last month, we received $10,000 from the law firm, Davis, Polk & Wardwell, LLP to commemorate our collaborations over the years. The prize was awarded in the name of Chui-Lai Cheung, Esq., one of the firm’s associates who has worked with us closely on pro bono cases, including the case I wrote about in the previous Director’s Corner. In addition to particular cases, the prize recognized the years that PSOT has assisted in recruiting and training pro bono attorneys to help asylum seekers in need. It is rewarding to till the soil with our partners and begin to reap the benefits.

Another way in which our community has shown its commitment was evident during the New York Marathon earlier this month. Our very own Dr. Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith decided to run this marathon in order to raise money for PSOT. We reached out to our community and the response was amazing. Dr. Yinka was able to raise more than $6,000 for our cause. A true combination of her unflagging effort, focus and stamina; and the extraordinary generosity and support from our community. We thank you all.

As the newly minted Program Director, still in my first year and trying to figure things out, it is encouraging to see such progress, and to witness the ongoing support of our community. It brings a smile to my face, which at least helps to temper the furrowed brow I usually sport.

The reality is that winter is coming (apologies to all ‘Game of Thrones’ fans), and we are poised for one of the most challenging, politically charged, and chaotic years we have seen in a great while. As the political season progresses, and the stakes and intensity rise, it is clear that 2020 promises to be a bumpy ride. In this era of misdirection, scapegoating, distortion and distraction, we are poised to react when our clients (asylum seekers and other forced migrants) are portrayed as “strawmen,” scapegoats and an inherent threat to our nation. Things promise to be more unstable for them before calming down.

There will be increased need for direct services, as policies, rhetoric and enforcement strategies become harsher, more draconian and unpredictable. We will also need to respond in a larger, societal way to spread knowledge among those most vulnerable to uncertainty and misinformation. We must continue to advocate and not allow our society to shy away from the realities of the marginalization and distress our clients are facing.

All said, we are very encouraged by the bounty of this harvest season, but we understand that this coming winter will be challenging in ways we have not experienced before. We hope that our stores will be sufficient to carry us through the coming months, but there is still considerable reason for concern.

As such, I will ask if you will help us during our end-of-the year fundraising drive. We are truly living an historic moment, and we want to assure you that we will do everything within our means to heal, guide, support, and advocate for the incredible people we serve. This is only possible with the ongoing, and increased, support from the PSOT community.

We thank you in advance for your continued support.

I can only think about what will be written in our Director’s Corner this time next year. So much of it depends on how we engage, how we support one another, and how much we are willing to work to create the sort of future we all desire.

One of the things that keeps me warm on long, chilly nights is the assurance that we are not alone in this fight. We know that you are there. We hear your voices. We see your efforts. You fortify us by your financial, intellectual and spiritual contributions.

On behalf of the program and those we serve, we humbly express our appreciation.

One love,


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