About Us.

Photo by Fadi Dahabrah from Pexels

AsylumConnect provides the world's first web and mobile resource platform for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution.

AsylumConnect co-founders Sy and Jamie met as college students at the University of Pennsylvania. Sy shared his experience struggling to find safe resources during his own U.S. asylum process. Despite access to technology, upon arrival in the United States Sy struggled as a gay asylum seeker to know where it was safe to go for help to meet his basic needs, from finding legitimate pro bono legal representation for his asylum claim to LGBTQ+ affirming health care, mental health support, housing, and educational opportunities. As a trans man from a conservative background, the feeling of not being able to live authentically deeply resonated with Jamie. During their senior year, Sy and Jamie co-founded AsylumConnect to extend the first ever digital lifeline to other persecuted and marginalized LGBTQ+ people.

AsylumConnect is founded on the belief that every LGBTQ+ person deserves the safety and freedom to live authentically.

Need Help?

Use our FREE resource website and mobile app to connect with verified LGBTQ+ affirming and immigrant friendly legal, medical, mental health, and social services in seconds, 24/7.

Join Our Team

Join our remote team and help persecuted LGBTQ+ people find safety!


Learn more about our Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, interns, Junior Board, and Advisory Council.  

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the governing body for AsylumConnect. The board plays a pivotal role in developing AsylumConnect’s strategic plan, providing oversight and guidance. Ultimately, our board works to steer AsylumConnect towards achieving its vision of ensuring every LGBTQ+ person knows where it is safe to go for help.

Jamie Sgarro, Co-Founder J.D. Candidate; Co-Founder & Former Executive Director at AsylumConnect
Julian Sanjivan Co-President at InterPride
Christina Tong Senior Product Manager at Peloton & Former Junior Board at AsylumConnect
Sean Buckley, Board Chair Director of Operations at Kupanda Capital
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen Executive Director at the National Center for Transgender Equality
David Robinson Sr. Manager eDiscovery at Macquarie Group
Wesley Bizzell Sr. Asst. Gen. Counsel at Altria Group & Former President at National LGBT Bar Assoc.
Justin Becker Associate at Sidley Austin LLP
Keeley Hanlon Senior Director at Purple Strategies
Hans How Impact Investor at New Island Capital & Former Volunteer Vice President at AsylumConnect


Our staff members lead our operations and collaborate with our volunteers to connect persecuted LGBTQ+ people with safety.

Shalawn James Executive Director
Abby Davies Resource Coordinator, Mexico / Spanish (Part-Time)
Heather Travitz Programs Director
Paulina Leyva Resource Coordinator, Canada / French (Part-Time)
F.J. Genus Tech Lead (Part-Time)
Carissa Chantiles Resource Coordinator, United States / English (Part-Time)


Our volunteers are invaluable to the continued growth of our organization. We are proud to have volunteers from a diversity of immigration statuses, races/ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities. Learn more about our volunteers below. 

Interested in joining our remote team? Click here

Volunteer Directors

Our volunteer leadership team helps to support our staff.

Li-Jay Chu Co-Director of Marketing & PR
Jordyn Mathis Director of Human Resources
Miroslav Damyanov UX Researcher Lead

Volunteer Associates

Our volunteer associates leverage their skills to advance AsylumConnect.

Marie Esther-Buh Team Coordinator
Grey Weinstein Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Claire Bonzani Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Jeremy Kern Corporate Partnerships/Outreach Volunteer
Melissa Navarro Spanish Translator
Meghan Singer Spanish Translator
Daniel Salvito Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Chris Aguilar Partnerships & Outreach
Patricia DuBose Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Jeffrey Lam Web Developer
Kevin Ye Web Developer
Shoba Jayaraman UX Researcher
Enrique Santamaría UX Researcher
Sarah Hendry, MBA Press Secretary
Rubina Sidhu Policy & Research Associate (Canada)
Wei Li UX Designer
Taylor Holmes Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Shannon Wu Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Ross Sounart Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Rachel Little Social Media Coordinator
Peggy Lu UX Designer
Julia Fest Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Kate Davila Social Media Coordinator
Joshua Lokken Web Developer
Karla Michelle Alas Rivera Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Steandly Eko Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator


Our interns join us for the summer or a semester to develop their skills while supporting LGBTQ+ asylum seekers’ safe resettlement.

Learn more about our current intern class below.

Interested in interning with us? Click here to view our current internship positions. 

Douglas Van Renen Marketing Intern
Tanya Chen Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Canada)
Christopher Camacho Recruiting Intern
Bria Broughton Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Canada)
Wendy Moya Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Mexico)
Kyle Abrahams Recruiting Intern
Saskia Schneider Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (US)
Ana Vasconcelos Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Mexico)
Fatima Karim Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (US)
Sadie Krause Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (US)
Julie Wagoner Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Canada)
Mia Eisenberg PR/Media Intern
Theresa Owens Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (US)
Abbas Hasan Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (US)
Danny Hegberg Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Canada)
Dayana Castrejon Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Mexico)
Gracie Heim PR/Media Intern
Nicolette Monaco PR/Media Intern
Isabelle Nambo Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Mexcio)

Junior Board

The AsylumConnect Junior Board is a group of young professionals committed to supporting AsylumConnect’s critical work through fundraising, networking and marketing. We are excited to welcome 37 members to the 2021 program.

Learn more about this innovative program for young professionals in the U.S. and how to become a member here.

2021 Steering Committee

The Steering Committee serves as the leadership team of the AsylumConnect Junior Board.

Slavi Arnaudov, Co-Chair The Blackstone Group, Tactical Opportunities Investor
Nina Seminara, Director of Marketing Committee Ipsos, Research Analyst
Martha O’Brien, Co-director of Recruitment Committee Capital One, Human Resources Associate
Judy Siegel, Co-Chair Dow Jones, Director of Product Design & UX
Stephen Rice, Co-director of Tech Committee Google, Software Engineer
Nima Niassati, Director of Fundraising Committee Salesforce, Strategy & Operations Sr Analyst
Elizabeth “Boof” Truchan, Co-director of Tech Committee Roblox, Software Engineer
Nehal Gupta, Director of Social Committee BBR Partners, Associate
Will Sheehan, Director of Learning & Development Committee Safe Passage Project, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow

2021 Members

Javier Moran-Eserki EY-Parthenon, Consultant
Megan Druss Balyasny Asset Management, Compliance Associate
Michael Leonetti NYU Law School, Second Year Law Student
Ben Mills Cambrian Biopharma, Associate, Office of the CEO
Rohan Dsouza PwC, Digital Assurance & Transparency (DAT) Manager
Federico Ivanissevich PwC, Consultant
Bennett Johnson Kearney, Senior Business Analyst
Jenna Vaccaro American Express, Web Designer
Mary (MO) Swinson Social Worker
Gaurav Lalsinghani DC Public Charter School Board, Sector Data Analyst
Angel Yu PwC Strategy&, Senior Associate
Ryann Ersoff COVID-19 Resource App, Co-Founder/Developer
Michael Lupton Blank Rome, Associate
William Chiu Gusto, People Empowerer, Recruiting Coordinator Pod
Gabriela MacPherson Riverside Language Program, Company Outcomes Coordinator
Brett Schratz American Civil Liberties Union - Voting Rights Project, Paralegal
Kayleigh Redmond Freelance Writer
Kassidy Rumpf PwC, Tax Associate
Max Chasen Deloitte, Transfer Pricing Consultant
Megan Schippmann Royal Bank of Canada, Capital Markets. Senior Associate Strategist, Global Research
Daniel Lowenthal Horizon Media, Growth Associate, Big
Kelly Chan Adobe, Program Operations Manager
Alex Campili BlackRock, Analyst
Tanushree Khanna PwC, Assurance Senior Associate

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a diverse group of LGBTQ+ advocates, asylees, refugees, nonprofit leaders, and human rights defenders. Members generously lend their areas of expertise, personal experiences, and networks to help AsylumConnect reach its full potential.

Jacque Larrainzar
Maikel Nabil Sanad
Grace Liu
Sara Wagner, MA
Fernando Chang-Muy, M.A., J.D.
Raina Fox, M.A.
Priscilla F. Aybar
Glenn R. McGillivray
Micheal Ighodaro
Francisco Tenorio-Hernández
Danielle Madeja
Mike Iskandaryan
Emma Biegacki
Maher Darwiche