Originally from Pakistan, Yasmin Causer is a USA for UNHCR board member and partner in the Private Client Services Group at KLR, an accounting firm in Boston, Massachusetts. In January, Yasmin joined a mission trip to Ethiopia where she traveled to Kebribeyah refugee camp to learn more about UNHCR’s work to help refugees.
What made you decide to become involved with the refugee issue?
My husband and I have been involved with the refugee issue for at least 10 years. When we started having a budget for philanthropy, we asked ourselves what are the areas we want to focus on? We picked three areas: religion, education and shelter.
While we were looking for organizations to support, I heard an interview with Angelina Jolie. She had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan and was talking about human rights. I had a special interest in what she had to say because I am from Pakistan. People in Pakistan – the women especially – did not know what their rights were. They did not even know they had rights. Angelina Jolie’s advocacy for UNHCR connected these topics for me. That’s when we made our first donation to USA for UNHCR—and ultimately we became monthly donors.
Why did you decide to join this mission trip to Ethiopia?
To educate myself. I have done a mission trip in the past with another smaller organization that did surgeries for cleft lips. I went to Beirut, and I observed. I really got engaged in the mission and my level of understanding increased by actually being there and listening and talking to people.
“There’s only so much reading you can do—you have to experience it!”
What did you expect going into the trip and what did you end up getting out of it?
I’m a clean slate, so I didn’t come in with preconceived ideas. Anywhere is a good starting point. But the experience gave me a very good, broad understanding of how things work [on the ground]. Now I have some background and can go back, read up and get ready so that for the next trip I can learn even more and ask better questions.
You have a busy career as an accountant. How might this experience impact your work?
I deal with a lot of donors and I find that they want to do good. They want to give money, but they don’t know how. It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. A trip like this helps me answer those questions for my clients. From here, I hope to engage other donors in the Boston area.
Is there something about Ethiopia, or the refugees living there, that you want people to know?
I found it remarkable that in spite of their dire circumstances and daily frustrations the refugees seemed happy. They were laughing and playful and had a sense of humor. That was heartening.