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“We are not here to get credit but to change lives” — Day 1 of the RME Network Conference in New York City

Leading experts from universities, NGOs and (not)-for-profit organizations around the world followed the invitation of the Refugee & Migrant Education (RME) Network and gathered at Manhattan College in New York City today to kick off three days of sharing best practices and identifying current and future needs in the field of refugee and migrant education.

Founded in Rome in 2017, the RME Network aims to become a global platform of dynamic cooperation between its members supporting refugees and migrants in any living condition, be it in a refugee camp or a hosting country, to obtain and build on their education.  

Extending words of welcome, Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, President of the Being the Blessing Foundation and Co-Founder of RME Network, pointed out that the refugee crisis “is the fundamental crisis of our times. But it is not only about rescuing refugees, but also about rescuing ourselves and our humanity. We have to ask ourselves how can we use our gifts and skills as educators to create a world that we want to leave for our children and grandchildren.” Dr. Brennan O’Donnell, President at Manhattan College and host of the conference, welcomed the participants and stretched the obligation and responsibility for universities to help those in need.

Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, President of being the Blessing Foundation and Initiator of the RME Network


In his keynote address on the perspectives of the global refugee realities, Dr. Stephen Rasche, Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University in Erbil, Iraq, called on universities to not assume that moving away from their home countries might be the best solution. It might not be. Universities have to understand the reality the students have to deal with. Don’t assume they are good to go. Their situation is drastically underestimated.

Dr. Stephen Rasche, Vice Chancellor Catholic University in Erbil, Iraq


Ashish Gadnis, Founder and CEO of BanQu, a for-profit/for-purpose software company then talked about the power and opportunities of blockchain technology to lift people out of poverty. In a vivid talk, he moved the audience by telling the story of a mother who told him that her children can now go to school because she exists in the supply chain.

Ashish Gadnis, Co-Founder and CEO of BanQu


Wrapping up the day, Dr. Paulina Guzik, member of the organizing committee of the RME conference, reminded the audience that we can’t talk refugee and migrant education without having refugees and migrants in the room. She invited three testimonies to share their powerful stories of fleeing their home countries but in the end being able to create a new future thanks to the education they received.

An inspiring first conference day of the RME Network has come to an end with more best practices being shared and discussed tomorrow.  

Participants of the RME Conference at Manhattan College


More voices from Day 1:

Children should not reach milestones in detention centres.”
Yadira Vieyra — Mexican immigrant who came to the US with her parents at the age of four.

What they have given me, I wish could also be given to others.
Naouras Mousa Almata — Refugee from Syria who was one of five refugees receiving a scholarship to study at Manhattan College.

We are living in a camp, but this is not where our lives will end.
Innocent Tshilombo — Refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has, for the last 10 years, been living in the Kakuma camp in Kenya where he got the opportunity to finish a full degree course facilitated by Jesuit Worldwide Learning.

This network is about humans beings doing good out of our sense for common humanity.
Dr. Anthony J. Cernera 

Educate not only the heads but also the hearts!
Fr. René Micallef, SJ 

We are not here to get credit but to change lives.”
Dr. Paulina Guzik


Videos from Day 1:


1/ Opening

Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, Dr. Brennan O‘Donnell


2/ Keynote Address

Dr. Stephen Rasche (Catholic University of Erbil)


3/ Keynote Adress

Ashish Gadnis (BanQu)


4/ Refugee Voices

Yadira Vieyra, Nouras Moussa Almata, Innocent Tshilombo


5/ Refugee & Migrant Education Network

Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, Dr. Paulina Guzik, Fr. René Micallef, SJ