Katharine McKinney, Volunteer Coordinator at Refugee4Refugees
Kat will be taking on the role from January so we asked her for a few questions so you can get to know her.
R4R: Where are you from?
KM: I’m from St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is a tiny island on the east coast of Canada!
R4R: Where was your last job?
KM: My last position was as an English teacher on the Thai-Myanmar border, where I taught high school English to Burmese refugees and migrants. In the afternoons I was a fundraising intern with the Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee, a CBO in Mae Sot, Thailand.
R4R: Why did you want to work with Refugee4Refugees?
KM: It felt in a lot of ways like it lined up perfectly with my past experience and budding interests. I was a lifeguard throughout high school, and I certainly prefer positions in the field because I’m pretty high energy – but additionally, my time in Thailand has really shaped a passion for further work in migration. When I found R4R on the Omprakash website, I felt strongly that it would be a great match.
R4R: If you could have a superpower what would it be?
KM: Bringing sunlight wherever I go. No joke. I never miss the cold when I’m travelling.
R4R: What’s your phone wallpaper?
KM: Right now, it’s a picture of my students and a sticker saying ‘Peace in Burma Now’.
R4R: What’s on your bucket list?
KM: Is the actualization of world peace a valid answer?
R4R: If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would you invite?
KM: I’d love to have a conversation with Antonio Guterres, but no doubt he’d be pretty bored.
R4R: Have you met any refugee whose story stuck with you? And what was their story?
KM: One of my students was a child soldier in Karen state (in Myanmar). He defected and became a refugee in a camp in Thailand; a lot of my students come from the camps. He was fairly nonchalant (maybe even proud) of his past; nonetheless there was a lot of pain when he explained the ramifications of his actions on his family and loved ones. He described feeling as though he was selfish – how ridiculous! – and listening to his stories was really a defining moment for me.
R4R: Why have you been drawn towards the issue of migration?
KM: For one, I enjoy puzzles and challenges – and issues of migration are particularly complex, so working on such a multi-faceted puzzle can be satisfying. Pragmatic solutions can be hard to find and even harder to implement, so the fulfilling professional moments can be few and far between. From a more personal perspective, a strong belief in the universality of human rights is also fulfilling, and there’s a lot more satisfaction approaching the problem from a matter of principle, in that respect.
R4R: What would you like to achieve on Lesvos during your time with us?
KM: Honestly, my main goals are a) being useful, and b) learning more about the refugee community in Greece.