Former Obama era foreign affairs officer changed lives of refugees

TOVA KIBAL, Channels Staff

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Over 10 years ago, Marina J. Andina suffered with sleeping problems due to the horrific stories she would encounter while working with refugees for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program overseas.

In Ghana, Austria and Kenya, Andina got a firsthand experience working with traumatized people in shocking situations.

After her time overseas, she worked in Washington D.C. as a foreign affairs officer at the Department of State for the Obama administration up until last year.

And this week, she inspired City College students on the topic of change.

Honors program co-president Lorenzo Marchetti conducted an interview with Andina in front of a crowd of students at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Administration Building Room 211 for an event put together by the program titled “The Importance of Change Today in the International Arena: A Conversation with Marina J. Andina.” The topic of change is a recurring referent for upcoming events since it is the chosen theme of the year.

A wide variety of subjects were touched on during the interview, such as Andina’s own definition of the word “change,” her time in the Obama administration and her experience working with refugees overseas. In Kenya, she worked at one of the largest refugee camps in the world, where she witnessed the problems of people staying in the camps for an extremely long time.

“There are children recently born in the camps, to women who themselves were born in the camps,’’ Andina said. “There is now a third generation.’’

An inspired group of students eagerly listened to Andina’s inspirational journey where she emphasized the subject of change throughout her answers to the questions. It became apparent that Andina had not only gone through personal changes herself but she has also made a change in the life of many others during her work with refugees.

In a world where there are many that need help, Andina promoted engaging in the global issues we face today and encouraged the crowd to never feel like they had to do everything—as long as they did something.

“You do what you can do, in the context of which you can do it,’’ Andina said. “There are so many things going on and so many different ways you can approach these issues.’’

With recent political changes combined with allegations of fake news and uncertainty of who to trust and where to turn, many are left stranded with a feeling of confusion and fear. Andina offers the crowd a positive message and she points out the importance of questioning what is being said and offers some advice for someone that wants to help and understand.

“Pay attention to what is going on,’’Andina said.  “Care about it, and remain engaged.’’

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