About Alison Treaster

Alison Treaster Alison Treaster is the director of Workforce Business Engagement at the Allegheny Conference. Originally from northeast Ohio, Alison now proudly calls Pittsburgh home, but still struggles on Sundays during football season.
Alison Treaster

For the first time in history, a team of athletes comprised entirely of refugees is competing in the Olympic games. Ten athletes from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Ethiopia comprise the official Refugee Olympic Team. The International Olympic Committee formed the team to protect athletes who were forced to flee their home countries due to international crises. Displacement from their homes leaves them without a national Olympic committee to support them, without a flag to wear on their chests, without an anthem to play on the podium following their hoped-for victories. In 2016, these athletes reflect the unity represented by the Olympics rings as they compete in swimming, judo and various track and field events. Learn more about these incredible athletes here.

Once again, the Olympics has provided common ground for athletes to represent their countries and for fans to show their national pride by embracing the diversity while uniting through sports. Perhaps those of us watching can carry forward that notion of common ground and be mindful of the contributions of the individuals we encounter daily in our cities, our workplaces and among our neighbors.

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Alison Treaster

For decades, the Pittsburgh region has been a haven for refugees fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. Refugee families, children and individuals have put down roots in southwestern Pennsylvania with the help of local resettlement agencies, religious organizations and nondenominational groups. Today, our region is dotted with vibrant communities of hard-working Bhutanese, Bosnian, Burmese, Congolese, Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese and Syrian refugees, among others.

While adapting to a new home with different languages and customs is difficult even in the best of circumstances, refugees positively contribute to the Pittsburgh community in a variety of ways. On June 17, Pittsburgh’s World Refugee Day in Market Square celebrated those contributions with musical and dance performances, as well as “Refugee Voices” presentations and food and fares from the local communities.

WRD_Poster_2016Who are refugees? A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. While returning home is often a goal, many refugees spend years in temporary camps in third countries before either returning home or being approved for resettlement in an adopted country. Their plight has been brought to wider public attention over the past year as conflict in Syria and ongoing violence around the world has forced more than 15 million people to flee their country of origin. The United Nations’ Refugee Agency calls this the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Through it all, Pittsburgh has remained a welcoming city. Thanks to the tireless efforts of various organizations, our region continues to help more than 500 refugees create homes here each year. The U.S. refugee process is grueling and typically takes years. Refugees remain among the most highly vetted population to enter our country, undergoing screenings by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and one-on-one interviews abroad before they may be approved to enter the United States.

For more information or to help refugees in the Pittsburgh region, contact a local refugee resettlement agency such as  AJAPOCatholic CharitiesJewish Family & Children’s Services or the Northern Area Multi-Service Center.