Recently, Lauren Goodsmith was honored with the Impact Partner Award at Fusion Partnerships’ “Founders Day” event for her work with the Intercultural Counseling Connection, an organization that provides therapeutic care and counseling to refugees and forced migrants in Maryland who have experienced trauma due to conflict, torture and other types of harm. Goodsmith founded the organization with help from her 2012 OSI Community Fellowship.
In an email to colleagues and friends about receiving the award, Goodsmith wrote, “This distinction is especially meaningful in that the project that became the Connection started almost exactly 7 years ago, with the award of an Open Society Institute (OSI) Baltimore Community Fellowship grant. That fellowship supported the development and launch of the Connection, and helped it fledge; becoming a nonprofit program under Fusion Partnerships followed, fostering steady growth and impact.”
In accepting the award, Goodsmith said, in part, “I feel proud that the Connection has been able to fulfill this mission, that we’ve been able to provide services for well over 300 asylum seekers, refugees and other forced migrants from 30 different counties. At the same time, I’m saddened by the awareness that virtually all of those we’ve served have experienced terrible harm inflicted by other human beings: by individuals, by gangs and armed groups, and by governments—including, most recently, our own.”
The Connection, which is the only program in Maryland to provide these specialized services at no cost, also serves as a source of professional support and growth for participating therapists.
Read her full remarks below:
When what became the Intercultural Counseling Connection began almost exactly seven years ago, I could never have imagined a time when people seeking asylum here in our country would be so criminalized, re-victimized, and re-traumatized; that the very right to seek asylum would be so drastically assailed by a U.S administration, or that refugee entries to the US would be reduced to an historic low.
For these reasons among many others– including the unconscionably long, drawn-out process now involved in adjudication of asylum cases and the long-lasting harm inflicted on asylum seekers and immigrants who are detained, or forcibly separated from loved ones—the work of the Connection feels especially crucial right now.
From the start, the purpose of the Connection has been a simple one: linking people who have experienced trauma due to conflict, torture, and other types of harm with caring volunteer therapists; providing specialized clinical guidance and trainings for these counselors; and ensuring that all of the services we offer are culturally attuned and linguistically appropriate.
I feel proud that the Connection has been able to fulfill this mission, that we’ve been able to provide services for well over 300 asylum seekers, refugees and other forced migrants from 30 different counties. At the same time, I’m saddened by the awareness that virtually all of those we’ve served have experienced terrible harm inflicted by other human beings: by individuals, by gangs and armed groups, and by governments—including, most recently, our own.
I want to thank the wonderful Connection team: our incomparable Clinical Director, Amy Rakusin; our Program Associate, Angel Dawson; and our Clinical Associates, Andrea Rackowski and Sheri Laigle. And I want to thank the amazing, compassionate therapists who make up our pro bono network– this program could not exist without them.
I thank our Advisory Group, our partners, friends and funders, and I thank Fusion for providing steadfast support and fiscal sponsorship. Deep appreciation to Lisa and the entire Board. It’s a joy and a privilege to work with Keith, CKim, Lukah, and everyone on the fabulous Fusion team, carrying on the standards and mission established by Polly, Strongheart, and the other co-founders.
Because of this support, because of these partners, the Connection is able to continue its work of fostering healing and helping to restore hope.