Hayley Smith has seen the global refugee crisis up close in Greece, and she’ll be in Missoula on Thursday to talk about it.
In a week when President Donald Trump is expected to roll out a revised immigrant order and Missoula schools celebrate Diversity Week, the founding director of the Phoenix-based Lifting Hands International will present a program and discussion called “The Refugee Crisis: A Discussion of Global Importance” at 7 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel Ballroom.
Lifting Hands International has a team of long-term volunteers working at a refugee camp in northern Greece, where the military has cracked down on independent volunteers and nonprofits.
“She’s dealing with all the various issues, political and social, from corruption to graciousness,” said Bob Seidenschwarz, president emeritus of the Montana World Affairs Council. “These are refugees who are literally coming off the boat, and the last thing they want to do is be on a boat across the Mediterranean Sea going to a foreign country. All the deep-rooted connections these people have had in many ways disappear, sometimes overnight.”
Smith founded Lifting Hands after spending December 2015 in a Greek camp. The nonprofit organization is a volunteer effort that provides humanitarian and relief services to refugees in camps overseas, and assists refugees in the Phoenix area with resettlement.
Smith has a minor in Arabic from Brigham Young University and a master's in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic from the University of London’s school of Oriental studies. She taught Arabic language and culture for three years as part of a Qatar Foundation International program at the Boston Latin Academy.
The Qatar Foundation and the Montana World Affairs Council teamed up to invite Smith to Missoula. She’ll share the stage Thursday night with Christina Atwood, who'll discuss the refugee vetting and resettlement process overseas and on U.S. soil.
Smith will be making radio and school appearances in Missoula on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday she’s scheduled to meet with Mayor John Engen to discuss Missoula’s support of refugees and efforts to make it a sanctuary city.
With the help of refugee support group Soft Landing Missoula and the International Rescue Committee, some 70 refugees from half a dozen countries have arrived in Missoula since last August.
Ticket prices for Thursday night’s presentation at the DoubleTree are $10 for the general public; $5 for Montana World Affairs Council members and free for students.