Updated: Oct 16, 2018
My friendship with Flore Hiensch changed my life. Ren, Flore and I, along with a handful of others became fast friends during our tenure as graduate students at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. This time in my life was one of the best and most influential on my outlook on global and economic issues. We learned from our professors and from each other. Washington, D.C. was a classroom unto itself. The Washington culture was unique and unlike any other I had ever experienced. Nowhere else would happy hour conversation entail a discussion on elections in Malaysia or economic turbulence in Venezuela? Our exchanges ranged from conflicts in the Caucasus to flourishing financial systems in the BRIC countries. Our group would meet in a coffee shop on a Sunday and some of us would study international political theory or write papers on topics like the impact of migration from rural to urban regions, while others would consume the latest issue of The Economistor the Sunday edition of the Financial Times. In our discussions we challenged each other’s perspectives while respecting differing views rooted in our diverse backgrounds.
Flore's Impact on Me
Flore’s well-informed perspective influenced my worldview, especially on topics that she was an expert, such as human right. She was incredibly openminded and believed in individual rights and freedoms. She studied migration policy and mechanisms for international development. Upon graduation she gladly accepted a position in one of the world’s largest refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya. For Flore, living thousands of miles from her friends and family was not her biggest concern. She was more worried about the impact that she would have on these people who survived a variety of conflicts and natural disasters. Once in the camp these individuals were officially banned from seeking out any professional ventures and therefore had no primary source of income. She once shared her amazement at the innovative refugees who built an informal economy to give them a sense of purpose and to pass the years.
Years later while grieving the loss of our dear friend, Ren and I thought about all of the number of people Flore touched through her career. She made a difference in the lives of countless displaced people, listening to their tragic stories, guiding them through the process being stateless, and holding their hand so they may reach the next step in their journey. She meant so much to us and we felt compelled to respond. We asked ourselves, “What would Flore want us to do?”
Continuing Flore's Mission
Self-reliance is considered a human right and one Flore sought for displaced people she encountered. Resettled refugees dream of nothing more than to live their lives with their families in a safe and stable community. We believe social entrepreneurship is one avenue to further refugees on their path to economic independence. Therefore, we created Flore Foundation to deliver hope just as Flore did.