In Conversation with Haitian Bridge Alliance on World Refugee Day 2024

In Conversation with Haitian Bridge Alliance on World Refugee Day 2024

World Refugee Day, celebrated annually on June 20th, honors refugees worldwide. This day raises awareness about the challenges refugees face, promotes inclusion, shows solidarity, and advocates for global cooperation to address the root causes of displacement and provide sustainable solutions.
This year’s theme emphasizes solidarity with refugees, highlighting the importance of welcoming them and working towards solutions for their plight. You can learn more about the day here.

By the end of 2023, over 117 million people were forcibly displaced globally due to conflict, violence, persecution, environmental disasters, and more. Throughout Airlink’s lifetime operations, we have provided over $33 million in transportation to NGO partners, delivering more than 12 million pounds of supplies and transporting over 11,000 responders. Airlink has responded to more than 130 emergencies in over 80 countries, reaching over 46 million people.

Through Airlink-supported programs for displaced communities, we have reached over 13 million refugees and IDPs globally with critical life-saving and life-sustaining care. Airlink is proud to support refugee interventions worldwide, including in Eastern Europe, Iraq, Bangladesh, Colombia, and at the US-Mexico border.

This World Refugee Day, we highlight the incredible work of our partner, Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), which joined Airlink as a nonprofit partner in 2023. Airlink’s Global Mobilization Manager, Ashley Bustillo, interviewed HBA’s International Humanitarian Director, Dahene Gustave, to shed light on their dedicated efforts to provide vital humanitarian, legal, and social services for migrants and refugees, particularly from Haiti, along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

With support from its airline partners, Airlink has coordinated 24 flights for HBA over the last year. With Airlink’s support, HBA has saved over $20,000 in transportation costs, allowing them to invest more in their programs in San Diego, Del Rio, Brownsville, and McAllen. These programs have provided humanitarian aid to over 50,000 migrants and refugees.

As we celebrate World Refugee Day, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting refugees and displaced persons worldwide, working together to create a better future for all.

HBA programs supported by Airlink in San Diego and at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Airlink and HBA in Conversation

Airlink's Ashley Bustillo (Global Mobilization Manager) interviewed HBA's Dahene Gustave (International Humanitarian Director), pictured left. The following Q&A is a summary of their discussion. It underscores the importance of collaboration within the humanitarian community to ensure efficient and comprehensive aid delivery to refugee communities.

Airlink: Why is Airlink’s partnership and flight support important to HBA? How does it allow you to upscale your programs?

HBA: As a small but growing organization, Airlink’s support has allowed us to do so much more than what we are usually able to do. For instance, instead of allocating funds for transportation, we have been able to purchase more supplies for distribution in Mexico. Over the past year, a lot of the work that we have been able to do would not have been possible without Airlink. 

Airlink: How have the war in Ukraine, the escalation of the crisis in Haiti, and other recent crises influenced the demographics and needs of refugees arriving in the U.S.? How should the humanitarian aid sector adapt to these changes?

HBA: We often say migration is fluid so don’t get used to anything. Depending on the crisis and what is happening around the world, we will see a growth in the number of migrants and refugees. With the escalation of the complex crisis in Haiti and the war in Ukraine, we have definitely seen a growth in the number of refugees at the border which makes it more challenging for organizations like HBA and our partners who do not have a lot of resources. The way we have adapted to this is through more collaboration and communication with our partners.

Airlink: How can humanitarian organizations collaborate more effectively with local communities to create welcoming environments for refugees?

HBA: We work with our partners on the ground to provide cultural competency trainings to help ensure that we are creating a welcoming environment for refugees from all backgrounds. With the help of our partners, we have staff and volunteers who speak English, French, Haitian Creole, Spanish and Mandarin. Although often overlooked, being able to welcome migrants and refugees with something they know or something from back home is important to making them feel welcome and comfortable.

Airlink: What are the most significant barriers refugees face when trying to access essential services such as healthcare and housing, and how can these barriers be effectively addressed?

HBA: Communication is a huge barrier. Difficulty accessing information and lack of proper support are also barriers. HBA and our partners do the best we can but it’s always difficult. To address this – I think it’s important to continue communicating with partners, and continue to educate ourselves about the current needs and policies. 

Mental health is also a huge barrier that is oftentimes not talked about. Migrants are dealing with a lot and oftentimes don’t have a lot of support. It’s definitely something that we need to emphasize more in the humanitarian community.

Airlink: How does HBA educate the broader public about the diverse and global nature of immigration issues, particularly in challenging the misconception that borders only impact certain groups of people?

HBA: At HBA, the mixture of legal, humanitarian, and advocacy work allows us to have a clearer picture of what the situation is along the border and provide more support. We make a lot of videos and webinars to educate migrant and refugee communities as well as organizations responding about the current situation and policies. We also do in-person sessions at intake centers and Airlink helps us with transportation for those sessions.

Airlink field visit with HBA in 2023. 

Picture of Ashley Bustillo

Ashley Bustillo

As Airlink’s Mobile Globalization Manager, Ashley supports Airlink’s emergency response activities including the mobilization of personnel for NGO partners.

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