The global forced migration crisis continues to grow every day, with the war in Ukraine as the most recent powerful example. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a staggering 100 million people have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict, violence, and persecution. The challenges resulting from forced displacement are likely to include lack of access to basic human rights, physical protection, personal capacity development, economic opportunity and quality education, leaving many in vulnerable and uncertain situations.

Serving and supporting talented and motivated learners from refugee, migrant, and underserved communities with learning and professional development opportunities is how the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) provides pathways for meaningful employment and well-being. Our aim is to help refugees and migrants become agents of positive change in their careers and communities. This year’s Class of 2022 welcomed 135 talented learners representing 29 different countries, including those who have contributed to the formation of seven global hubs in Jordan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Greece, Uruguay, United States and Colombia.

With recognition for the powerful impact of connecting and convening diverse communities around global systemic challenges, ReACT co-organized the first Migration Summit together with Na’amal, Karam Foundation, Paper Airplanes and the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab. The worldwide month-long virtual event brought together communities of practice, research, and advocacy groups while centering the voices and experiences of refugees and migrants in identifying solutions to pressing systemic challenges in education and workforce development in displacement contexts.

ReACT’s ability to broaden our efforts was made possible with the support of the Western Union Foundation, MIT’s Office of the Provost, the MIT Afghan Working Group, individuals donors, and MIT Open Learning. Most of all, we are continually inspired by the ReACT learners and alumni for their drive, resilience, and determination to give back to their communities, using their skills and talents to innovate and make a better world. This report takes a look back at the highlights of this year.

Image by Gretchen Ertl.

Transformational Education Programs

ReACT offers a transformational educational journey to learners through our Certificate Program in Computer and Data Science. This year-long experience provides access to high quality MITx online coursework in programming and data analysis, human and professional skill building, access to networks, and engagement with the MIT community as they join a global community of innovators. 

All of this together with the advocacy work that we do convening diverse stakeholders to address systems change in refugee education and our research work identifying, curating and cultivating best practices in inclusive education helps us to create pathways to dignified meaningful livelihoods.

 

March 8 | By Duyen Nguyen

Through the championing support of the faculty and leadership of the MIT Afghan Working Group convened last September by Provost Martin Schmidt and chaired by Associate Provost for International Activities Richard Lester, MIT has come together to support displaced Afghan learners and scholars in a time of crisis. The MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) has opened opportunities for 25 talented Afghan learners to participate in the hub’s certificate program in computer and data science (CDS), now in its fourth year, welcoming its largest and most diverse cohort to date — 136 learners from 29 countries.

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ReACT Class of 2022

Thanks to the generous support of the Western Union Foundation, Provost office and MIT Afghan Working Group, and MIT donors, ReACT ran its fourth cohort of its Certificate in Computer and Data Science, admitting 135 talented learners to participate in our largest and most diverse cohort to date. To blend ReACT’s online learning program with onsite activities and support, we are building relationships in seven global hubs representing clusters of learners.

ReACT Alumni

ReACT has conferred the Certificate in Computer and Data Science to 90 alumni since the start of our program in 2018. Our learners are highly motivated, with a 88% completion rate.

Motivated by their technical and leadership education in the ReACT program, many learners pivot in their careers or look to launch new ventures. 79% of alumni are considering starting entrepreneurial ventures and over 65% alumni are employed at companies like Meta, Stanley Black and Decker, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and the New York City Mayor’s Office.

Lubna Qarqaz

ReACT CDS 2021 Alumna
Business Improvement Executive at Arnex

Luis Felipe Henao Lopez

ReACT CDS 2021 Alumnus
Automation Business Analyst at Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.

 

Anas Hawwari

ReACT CDS 2020 Alumnus

Data Scientist at AiElements Co.

Migration Summit: Education and Workforce Development in Displacement

Last April, the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) together with Na’amal, Karam Foundation, Paper Airplanes and the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) organized the Migration Summit 2022, a month-long global convening designed to build bridges between diverse communities of displaced learners, universities, companies, NGOs, policy makers, and other key stakeholders around the key challenges and opportunities for refugee and migrant communities on the theme of “Education and Workforce Development in Displacement.”

 

Launched by MIT ReACT, the goal of the Summit was to create new spaces of collaboration and risk-taking, share best practices and deepen cross-institutional connections in order to address these critical gaps and challenges in education and livelihood for displaced communities. We sought to build community and capacity among conveners to establish new ways of working collaboratively together to yield new practice and research spaces in the area of refugee education and livelihoods.

 

 

 June 3, 2022 | By Duyen Nguyen

“Refugees can change the world with access to education,” says Alnarjes Harba, a refugee from Syria who recently shared her story at the 2022 Migration Summit — a first-of-its-kind, global convening to address the challenges that displaced communities face in accessing education and employment.

At the age of 13, Harba was displaced to Lebanon, where she graduated at the top of her high school class. But because of her refugee status, she recalls, no university in her host country would accept her. Today, Harba is a researcher in health-care architecture. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University, where she was part of the Global Education Movement, a program providing refugees with pathways to higher education and work.

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June 3, 2022 | By ReACT Team

The final report includes key discussions and recommendations. Topics include owning the narrative and envisioning ourselves as changemakers; overcoming barriers to migration, and building ecosystems. The report also details how you can get involved.

Read the report

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A Community of Support

March/April 2022 | By Prof. Admir Masic

It’s December 2016, and I’ve just arrived in the port town of Pozzallo in Sicily, where I am watching a group of boys playing soccer. The boys are animated and loud, fighting for a chance at the ball. A typical group of boys, except that these boys are refugees from Africa who have just made the long and arduous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Beside them, a huge pile of life jackets marks the arrival of the thousands before them. Many did not make it.

As I am reflecting on this unsettling reality, one of the boys breaks out from the group, and comes running towards me. He stops, and looks up at me with an excited smile. “I heard you were a professor from MIT.” I nod, “Admir Masic, pleasure to meet you,” and reach out my hand. “I have always wanted to shake the hand of an MIT professor,” he says to me, “I’ve been studying for the SAT so I can apply to your university,” before grabbing my visit card, turning back and disappearing into the nameless group of boys. The jarring moment transports me back in time.

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March 10, 2022 | By Prof. Admir Masic

In just 2 weeks, more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine. These numbers add to the 84 million people globally who are forcibly displaced, the 48 million people who are internally displaced and the 26.6 million who are refugees worldwide (UNHCR — UN Refugee Agency).

Seeing the sequence of events happening in Ukraine these days feels, for me personally, like history repeating itself. It feels like going 30 years back when the horror of war was devastating my homeland of ex-Yugoslavia. I was a young adolescent then and remember vividly the images of my home completely destroyed by a tank...

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November 22, 2021 | By Duyen Nguyen

Founded as an MIT-wide effort to open up educational opportunities for refugees worldwide, the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) today counts among its global community diverse nonprofit organizations, philanthropic supporters, universities, companies, and alumni. Together, the greater ReACT community strives to bring education and professional development opportunities to underserved communities, including refugees and migrants, wherever they live.

Recently, through Close the Gap, a member of the ReACT network that refurbishes and ships computers to communities in need around the world, ReACT connected with Bored of Boredom — an organization founded by high school students in Los Angeles — to provide laptop grants to two learners in ReACT’s Certificate in Computer and Data Science (CDS) program.

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We are facing the biggest humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. Your gift to MIT ReACT will ensure we can continue to support refugee, migrant, and underserved communities with free and open learning and professional development opportunities. Here are a variety of ways you can contribute to our efforts.

 

Host paid interns in computer and data science roles at your company or university.

Participate on our Mentorship Program.

Open up supplemental learning opportunities for our learners such as workshops, hackathons, and networking events online and in-person.

Donate equipment (laptops, hard drives) and open up physical spaces for learners to meet, study, and work together.

Be an advocate and public champion.

Recruit and connect us with potential ambassadors, partners, and sponsors.

Design curriculum and programming; join as an instructor, coach, or mentor.

Fundraise to support ReACT's endowment campaign.

To learn more, contact us at react@mit.edu.

Moving Forward

Next year, ReACT will be celebrating our 5th anniversary and we are pleased to announce that we will be running our fifth cohort! We will continue expanding worldwide thanks to our growing network of global hubs. Our newly designed Hub Playbook will enable us to connect learners to more meaningful academic programming, mentorships, internships and job opportunities to advance their education and careers wherever they live.

Advocating to address the systemic challenges that can help advance education, livelihood and rights for those impacted by displacement is part of ReACT’s mission. And so we’ll be running the second edition of the Migration Summit event which is currently being planned with an organizing team of more than 50 global volunteers.

We’ll continue providing a platform for the top talent from underserved communities to gather and learn in a rigorous, yet supportive, community environment. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed of future opportunities and events.

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