Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Sasha Chanoff

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Education  Wesleyan University
Name  Sasha Chanoff

Organization  RefugePoint
Years active  15+
Home town  Somerville
Sasha Chanoff architectsofthefuturenetwpcontentuploads2011

Occupation  Refugee relief organizer
Awards  Charles Bronfman Prize, 2010 Gleitsman Award, 2013

Citizenship  Finland, United States

2006 fellow sasha chanoff at echoing green s big bold benefit

Sasha Chanoff is an American humanitarian based in Somerville, Massachusetts who has worked for two decades in refugee rescue, relief, and resettlement operations in Africa and the United States. 


Chanoff is the founder and executive director of RefugePoint, a humanitarian organization that works to find lasting solutions for refugees by transforming the field of refugee resettlement and expanding opportunities for refugees to achieve greater self-reliance in the countries to which they have fled. Prior to launching RefugePoint, Chanoff consulted with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya and worked with the International Organization for Migration throughout Africa, identifying refugees in danger, undertaking rescue missions, and working on refugee protection issues with the US, Canadian, Australian, and other governments. 

Chanoff often enlists the help of the mass media to spread awareness about refugee issues. He has appeared on 60 Minutes and has been a featured teller on the popular public radio storytelling program The Moth Radio Hour. Chanoff has spoken in other national and international TV, radio, and print media outlets, and has lectured, presented, and given keynote speeches at universities, international conferences, and gala events.

Chanoff holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.A. in Humanitarian Assistance, from the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Friedman School of Nutrition, Science, and Policy. He has received fellowships from Ashoka, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and Echoing Green, and is a recipient of the Charles Bronfman Humanitarian Prize and Harvard's Gleitsman International Activist Award. He is a member of the steering committee for New England International Donors, and a human rights adviser to The Leir Charitable Foundations. He also recently served as an adviser to the Warner Bros. film The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon, and helped establish its charitable initiative, The Good Lie Fund, which he currently advises.

Chanoff believes resettlement is a vastly superior alternative to refugee camps, since re-settled refugees can support themselves and "get on with their own lives". He views his role as a humanitarian relief organizer to "attempt to help everyone in need."

In 2006, he founded the organization called Mapendo, which was renamed RefugePoint in 2011, to aid at-risk and obscure African refugee groups. Mapendo helped to evacuate more than 10,000 refugees from Sudan, Kenya, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He explained:

Oftentimes, ethnic minorities, girls and widows are not safe in the refugee camps. Rape is fairly common, so a lot of women and their families flee the camps out of fear and end up homeless in urban centers with no access to services. Mapendo seeks to find these refugees and help them get the protection and services they need. The organization is named after Rose Mapendo, a Tutsi woman who spent 16 months in a Rwandan death camp with her husband and seven children, and whose experience we wanted to honor. Rose lost her husband in the camps but now lives in Arizona with her children. Mapendo is a Swahili word that means "great love."

A lifeline for forgotten refugees ashoka fellow sasha chanoff

Early life

Chanoff was born in Finland. His great grandparents escaped from pogroms in Russia. Many of his relatives died in the Holocaust half a century later. He explained:

Refugees are on their own, but not by choice. And a lot of people, Jews in particular, have faced this for centuries.

He moved to the United States and graduated from Wesleyan University. Chanoff received a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University, and a master's degree in Humanitarian Assistance through a joint degree program at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Chanoff is a dual United States and Finnish citizen and speaks Finnish, German, French, and Swahili.

Awards and honors

Chanoff was awarded the Charles Bronfman Prize for his humanitarian efforts in 2010. In 2013, he was awarded the Gleitsman International Activist Award, given to an activist who has "improved the quality of life for others." It is an award given to a leader who works to challenge "injustices around the world and inspires others to do the same." Past recipients of this award have included Ralph Nader and Nelson Mandela. In addition, he received fellowships from Ashoka, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and Echoing Green. In 2006, he was named a Waldzell Institute "Architect of the Future." He serves on the Steering Committee of New England International Donors.


  • From Crisis to Calling, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016
  • References

    Sasha Chanoff Wikipedia