SPEAKER: Will Kneerim

Will Kneerim is the Director of Education, Employment and English Language Programs for IRIS—Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, based in New Haven. IRIS has been responsible for settling 5,000 refugees in the state. It responded to the global refugee crisis in 2015 by more than doubling its clientele from Africa and the Middle East, helping UN-designated refugees from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria and elsewhere begin new lives.

In 2016, the U.S. government invited 97,263 refugees from all over the world to come to this country, after a rigorous Department of Homeland Security screening process that can take up to three years. Over 900 came to Connecticut, where they were placed with one of three refugee agencies, including IRIS, which welcomed 475. Founded in 1982, IRIS has undergone dramatic growth and transformation over the past 35 years, but its goal has remained constant: to provide a new haven to refugees and other immigrants.

Will has lived and worked in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and both coasts of North America during his career in global logistics. He pursued a transition to the non-profit sector where for the last five years he’s directed the Education programs at IRIS. He says he is proud to have helped settle 2000 diverse refugees and asylees in Connecticut: “Welcoming persecuted people from other countries is an ancient and universal custom. In the United States, it is our most noble tradition.”

Will has been a presenter, panelist and moderator at universities and conferences around the U.S., and has served in board leadership positions for philanthropic and arts organizations. He has also represented IRIS in the media including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times, NPR – Guest on John Dankosky’s ‘Where We Live’, Fox News CT, among others.

To learn more about Will and IRIS work in Connecticut, go to: www.irisct.org

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