Lauren Kearns, Senior Communications Strategist

What is your background, in terms of where you call home, education, relevant experience, volunteer work, etc?


I was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, but for the past four years I have been living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where in Fall 2020 I’ll enter into my final semester of studying International Relations and English at the University of British Columbia. Although I’m not a tutor for FORA, ESL education is something I love dearly, having worked as a TOEFL instructor for a summer camp, an ESL instructor for an after-school program for students in Bali, and an ESL instructor for elementary students in Vancouver. I am also certified with a TEFL Certificate.

What led you to FORA and what made you want to commit to this organization?


I first became interested in refugee advocacy in 2018 when I interned for an organization called “International Neighbors,” a nonprofit that offers various support programs for refugees in my hometown. As I worked directly with refugee families, I was struck by how much they had already overcome before being resettled in America, and I was even more stunned to witness firsthand the uphill battle so many faced after arriving. When the summer internship ended, I left feeling like there was so much more I wanted to do to help, so I changed the direction of my university studies to focus more on forced migration. One highlight of this was getting to participate in a semester-long seminar focused solely on the topic of Refugee Education, which helped me to further realize how transformative education, particularly English language education, is for refugee families, and the difference it makes between families being able to survive versus thrive here in the United States.

This summer (2020) I was set with plans to spend a month living off-grid at an ashram in the mountains of Northern Canada, and then go to work for the organization “Samos Volunteers,” which runs a resource center for refugees on the island of Samos (right off the coast of Turkey). However, due to COVID, I instead ended up at home in Virginia for the summer, and so I began looking into how I could channel my experience and motivation down a different avenue, and I ended up coming across FORA, which I quickly realized was the embodiment of the very work I am so passionate about. The more I learned about this organization, the more I wanted to get involved with it!


What has been the highlight of your time with FORA so far?

Probably redesigning the website! It was an exciting task and it really required me to get to know FORA inside and out. Also I never thought I would ever know so much about what colors “work” together and which don’t — I stared at so many fonts and different shades of blue, green, and yellow before settling on the ones that now make up the site.


Another highlight for me has been getting to be the organizer and host for the Saturday Speaker Series. As my friends and family know, I jump at any chance to educate others about the challenges refugees face and what can be done to help, which makes this series very exciting to me as we're able to offer this type of learning to our volunteer community, and it's being delivered by experts.


What brings you joy in life / what do you like to do in your free time?

I love reading historical fiction, planning my future travels, gardening, thrift shopping, exploring new cities, learning languages, playing board games, listening to podcasts, and going for long walks. In terms of what consistently brings me lots of joy, I would have to answer that it's my three cocker spaniels, Molly, Ziggy, and Murphy.


What is your favorite quote?

Two quotes that have guided my work for the past few years have been:


“The best anti-poverty program is a world class education.” —Barack Obama


“Where the needs of the world and your talents cross…there lies your vocation.”

—Possibly Aristotle


What is a fun fact about you?

In high school I received the US State Department's CBYX scholarship to spend a year as Youth Ambassador in Berlin, Germany! It was such a transformative experience and I can now say I’m (mostly) fluent in German.



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Chicago, IL, 60659

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