Blog by LSSNCA Volunteer, Maicie Jones
In recognition of Women’s History Month, we are featuring a profile of Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). LIRS is our national voluntary agency for refugee resettlement and we are proud to be members of the Lutheran network.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah is a master of multitasking. During our mid-morning conversation, she shared her thoughts on topics ranging from refugee resettlement policy, the need for intentional organizational culture and the importance of public service—all while managing her two-year-old daughter and preparing for a work commute. In many ways, Krish’s life exemplifies the overlapping identities women must balance in today’s world, while her work has a direct impact on the lives of women both in the US and abroad.
Currently, the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Krish’s origins relate to the refugee system that her role now supports. Born in Sri Lanka, her parents fled a brutal civil war, coming to the US when Krish was nine months old. “Having that personal connection gives me some sense of the challenges refugees face as a whole, but in particular those more common to women.”
Krish went on to list some of the obstacles that women refugees encounter, “Female refugees face problems with discrimination and violence, both domestic and otherwise. They tend to be less prepared to enter the workforce due to a previous lack of educational opportunities.” Under Krish’s direction, LIRS ensures that women who come to the US as refugees have access to programs to help them build financial literacy and improve their employment prospects.
“There is a saying, ‘To empower a woman is to empower her children, her family and her community.’ Focusing on the needs of female refugees is a smart investment.”
Krish’s impact on women’s empowerment doesn’t end with the refugees her organization helps. As CEO of a major non-profit, she spends much time and attention setting the tone for and directing the work of affiliates, professional staff, and volunteers. “Women take on important roles at every level… As CEO, it’s critical that I address the needs of women at LIRS, building a culture of diversity and opportunities for work-life balance.” Krish continued, “While these policies sometimes intentionally address the unique needs of women, their benefit extend further, to the entire LIRS workforce.”
Having served in the Obama administration and run for governor of Maryland, Krish’s experience has informed her work at LIRS and embodied the desire of many women to take on greater roles in public life. “I bring a different lens to public service—the lens of an immigrant, a woman, a mother, and a CEO. My hope is that by empowering women throughout society, we will elevate humanity as a whole.”
Like LIRS, LSSNCA is proud to have both American and immigrant women in positions of leadership on our team and board, including a female CEO and female U.S. diplomat as our Board of Directors Chair. If you are interested in joining and enhancing our team check out our jobs page to see open positions!