Mapendo International: Extracurricular refugee resettlement, a good idea?

This is a story from early last summer that I only recently discovered.  I was reminded of it this morning when I wrote about the Somalis being stopped in Nevada and  it was discovered later that one of them was on the Terrorist Watchlist.   Also, this morning I told you about the Nepalese caught forging documents, here.   Both cases reminded me that we are continually assured that refugees are completely and thoroughly screened by Homeland Security before they are granted refugee status and resettled in the US.

So this story from the Boston Globe got my attention.  The group Mapendo International sounds like a bunch of good-hearted people, but is it a good idea to have groups like this scooping up refugees in Africa and bringing them to the US apparently outside of normal channels?  How do they know they aren’t picking up a wayward Jihadist?

Call it Sasha’s list.

When Sasha Chanoff made it into the crowded refugee center near the Congolese capital in February 2000, the young rescue team leader carried with him a list of 113 names – the fortunate Tutsi refugees he was authorized to take from the slaughter of Congo’s civil war to a new life in the West.

Inside a steamy tent, Chanoff met Rose Mapendo, a widow, huddled with seven of her children and gripping tiny swathed bundles in each arm – her emaciated baby twins. She had given birth in a prison camp, cutting the umbilical cords with a piece of bamboo and tying the cords with her hair. She had made it to the Kinshasa center five days before the rescue team arrived.

Her name wasn’t on Chanoff’s list.

After several nights of agonizing, he and his two rescue team partners decided to defy orders. They squeezed Rose and her children onto the last rescue flight, and onward to a new home in Phoenix, where they are thriving.

It sounds like Mrs. Mapendo is a very good lady, but I would like to know more about how these refugees Mapendo picks up ‘off the list’ are screened before arriving in New England or elsewhere.  Can anyone tell me?

Chanoff, a Marlborough native, and Mapendo have since become a powerful team – helping more than 4,600 other forgotten and threatened refugees to travel to freedom in America – and today, their efforts will be recognized.

Rose Mapendo will be honored in Washington by the United Nations refugee agency’s US office as the “humanitarian of the year,’’ and feted by an audience including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and refugee activist Angelina Jolie.

It is a tribute to Mapendo, certainly, but also to Chanoff, whose Cambridge-based nonprofit, Mapendo International, has engineered relocations from Sudan, Kenya, Burundi, and, recently, helped resettle more than 100 survivors of a massacre in Congo to New England.

If you are interested, they incorporated in 2004, here.  With a budget of over a million dollars they are doing fairly well, here.   Note that it’s a father/son team, David and Alexander Chanoff, that pretty much run the show.  They get grants from foundations like the Draper Richards Foundation, but it’s unclear whether they receive any federal grants or contracts.   I thought it was interesting to note that Mapendo International gave a $75,000 grant to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, an organizational giant compared to Mapendo, in that Form 990 linked above.

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