Tony has been donating to USCRI since 1987! We recently chatted with him about why he chooses to support USCRI.
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved with USCRI.
I am a faculty member teaching ethics at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. My social consciousness awoke when I was a student at Georgetown. A college friend went to work for a small organization called Refugee Voices—it produced audio pieces profiling refugees that were distributed to different radio stations around the country. Their mission was to let the voice of the refugee be heard. That organization merged with USCRI at least 10 years ago, which is how I learned about USCRI.
After college, I worked at IBM for 7 years. I took a leave of absence and volunteered with Covenant House in a seedy area of NYC – we helped runaways, teen moms, and kids dealing with drugs and mental health issues. A contingent of us volunteers lived in Times Square. It was a supercharged spiritual environment. We got room and board and $12 a week. I was there for almost 2 years, then went back to IBM in late 1991. It was very hard to resume my former life. The years at Covenant House had made a difference, and my former job was not very satisfying. I went to study ethics at Boston College and got a PhD in ethics. I taught for 4 years in Wisconsin, then I joined Salve Regina and have been here for 16 years.
Why is it important to you to support refugees and immigrants?
Three of my four grandparents were immigrants and I have an appreciation for how difficult it is to leave your home country. You don’t know what the future will hold. Refugees are highly motivated to leave home, and the motivation is mostly negative. I have a lot of empathy for that and a good appreciation for how unjust life can be for some people, through no fault of their own. I don’t have patience with people who don’t have room in their hearts, or their country, for people who are just looking for a second chance.
I know that refugees and immigrants often have experienced hard and harsh conditions. I feel called to help them on both a human and a religious level. I have strong convictions that compel me to help those on the margins of society. I’ve been fortunate in my life, but it’s not like I earned it. I was just born in the right circumstances. I try not to be caught up in my insular world. I try to show empathy, compassion, and generosity.
I also know this country owes so much to immigrants. My grandparents fled economic hardship hoping to make a better life. Now their descendants are making contributions to society.
What has made you continue donating to USCRI for 32 years?
I’ve continued my support all these years because I think all people deserve a fair chance in life and refugees often have the most difficult road to travel. I am proud to support USCRI and all your programs to help refugees and immigrants.