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Magnolia Turbidy

Refugee Assistance Program Director | New York City

Magnolia Turbidy works around the globe to help refugees find new homes. She has worked in Jordan, Kenya, South Africa and Sudan, as well as doing internships in India and Burma, to advocate for displaced people.

“QCC has transformed my life, kabisa! (completely in Swahili) If it wasn't for QCC to help me realize that I loved academia, and give me the ability to take classes to get up to college-level courses, I definitely would not be at the level of my career that I am today nor would I love what I do for work,” she said. “Because of my time at QCC, I am now able to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world, refugees. I have worked in various capacities with refugees since 2006, but for the majority of those positions, I have been directly responsible for interviewing and advocating for refugees in need of resettlement.”

Based in New York City, Ms. Turbidy was recently on location in Jordan. She works on behalf of refugees for HIAS, as a Program Manager for International Operations. HIAS works around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. For more than 130 years, HIAS has been helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.

From February through May 2014, Ms. Turbidy was based in Amman, Jordan, as an expert in resettlement to help the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) help Syrian refugees. During her three months in Amman, she interviewed and advocated for 294 refugees, none of whom could return safely to Syria.

“They were all struggling to survive in urban areas across Jordan; most were provided little or no humanitarian assistance and were not legally authorized to work without a very expensive work permit, forcing them to fend for themselves,” she said. “Many of the people I interviewed had severe medical problems, including disabilities, illnesses, and mental health problems. While Jordan provides basic health care for Syrian refugees within its borders, the massive numbers of Syrian refugees already taxing Jordan’s infrastructure leaves the country unable to bear the costs of specialized medical care.”

“With the number of Syrian refugees expected to surpass four million by the end of 2014, this is clearly the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation. My unforgettable first-hand experience, and the faces and stories of the people I met in Amman, remind me daily that providing assistance to those who are most vulnerable is imperative,” she said.

After completing her associate's degree in liberal arts at Quinsigamond, Ms. Turbidy was awarded academic and financial scholarships at Clark University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in International Development and Social Change, which she was able to do in two years because she transferred her credits from QCC.

She said QCC’s flexible class schedule was essential as she was able to work full-time while attending school.

Due to her academic achievement, she was offered a place in the master’s program in International Development and Social Change at Clark University. It was known as the 5th year program at that time, which was effectively the two-year master's program in one year.

She completed two international internships during the summers while attending Clark. One was a full scholarship from CollegeCorps to do a summer internship with a small community-based organization in Udaipur, India. The second was with Burma Border Project on the Thai-Burma border working with a small community-based organization that worked with Burmese displaced people. She also did research for her master's thesis while there.

Ms. Turbidy worked for the US Refugee Resettlement Program for Sub-Saharan Africa from 2008-2010, where she was based in Nairobi, Kenya, and her team helped to move and process refugees going to the United States. She also worked at UNHCR in Africa on contract from RefugePoint, an organization that assists refugees in Africa, with headquarters based out of Boston.