SMC Alum Emily Redfern ’17 Completes a Year of Lasallian Service in Lebanon

Emily Redfern volunteered for a year in Lebanon with the Fratelli COVID-19 Humanitarian Aid Project.Emily Redfern ’17 has practiced the Lasallian values she learned at Saint Mary’s both near and far—most recently, spending a year in Lebanon with the Fratelli Project. The Fratelli 2020 COVID-19 Humanitarian Aid Project is an initiative aimed at responding immediately to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis that was devastating the country of Lebanon, in particular the refugee communities at the margins.

A former International and Global Studies major, with a concentration in social justice, Redfern knew she wanted to apply the Lasallian principles she practiced at Saint Mary’s and take time off to be a volunteer. “I spent my time at Saint Mary’s being involved with the Mission and Ministry Center and leading immersion trips,” she told us in an interview. She learned that the Mother House in Rome had recently launched an international volunteer coordinator position and knew she wanted to go abroad.

In Lebanon, she worked not only with refugee families: “During my time there, because of the economic situation, we also started working with Lebanese families who were doubling down into poverty rates.” Redfern worked with the project for 11 months.

“This year the challenge was monumental,” Redfern wrote in her report on the Fratelli Project website. “With a pandemic sweeping the globe, the Lebanese country, already crippled by a collapsing financial system, political revolutions, and crumbling infrastructure, was teetering on the brink of collapse. To prevent widespread chaos, the government quickly sealed the country off and shut everything down, implemented curfew, the wearing of a facemask, and limited the movement of people across the entire country. The goal was to control the spread of the virus and prevent it from reaching the shelters the refugees lived in, which would have created an explosion of cases.”

Now a graduate student at Boston College, where she earned a scholarship for her Lasallian volunteer work, Redfern looks back at Saint Mary’s fondly. She reflected on how the College gave her the confidence and skills to pursue this kind of social work, crediting the Mission and Ministry Center for “the Lasallian formation I received. How we do service in a positive and equitable and sustainable way informs my entire ethos of being a volunteer. It definitely informed how I chose to spend my time in Lebanon and how I chose to create relationships with my students and their families; and coming from a place of equity and checking my privilege and understanding,” she said.

Redfern lauds Professor Ronald Ahnen in Global Studies for preparing her to look at what’s going on politically and economically. She learned to recognize, “What I'm bringing to the table, and work on my biases.”

Redfern feels deeply committed to refugee issues, which she’ll be incorporating into her graduate work. “I got a lot of exposure to the refugee and asylum-seeking process. I want to continue to work in this area and be an advocate.”

“I'm just so grateful that I had that life-changing opportunity, Redfern said. “And I feel like I was completely prepared for it because of Saint Mary’s.


For more information on the Global Studies Program, click here.