For the last 14 years, Chris George has been the Executive Director of IRIS — Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services — one of three refugee resettlement agencies in Connecticut.
During our conversation, he revealed how he got into this field after starting out with a strong desire to become an archeologist.
Thanks to his knowledge of Arabic, acquired during his service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sultanate of Oman, George was able to find work in humanitarian and aid agencies such as The American Friends Service Committeee, Save the Children, and Human Rights Watch. His missions took him to Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Afghanistan, and Pakistan among other locations to work on projects related to (re)construction, water and sanitation, schools, legislative strengthening and democracy programs.
Chris George, pictured right, with Mahmood, during an event in Oct 2017 at a Refugee Panel Discussion organized by the Canterbury School. Mahmood came to the US through the refugee resettlement program. His family fled Iraq after receiving death threats and after his father was attacked. They spent a couple of years in Lebanon before arriving in the US in 2014, and were welcomed to Connecticut by IRIS. Since his arrival, he’s proved to be an excellent student and a hard worker.
At the helm of IRIS, the largest of the resettlement agencies in the state, George is a proponent of community-based resettlement which enables groups of individuals in different locations around the state to be involved in the process of welcoming refugees, and guiding them through the practical and cultural aspects of life in the U.S. George states that once people are aware of the United States Resettlement Program, which has existed as an official program of the Department of State since after World War II, they are eager to support it and the individuals and families who arrive thanks to its existence.
Interview recorded on July 8, 2020. Musical theme: “Cascades” Podington Bear, Soundofpicture.com.