USA for UNHCR

“They have definitely made life easier….”

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950, in the aftermath of World War II, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or been displaced from their homes. The program was expected to disband after three years; more than six decades later, what is now also called the UN Refugee Agency is more important than ever, responding to the dire needs of refugees on a global scale. Crises of statelessness, asylum, migration, and climate change fill our news media daily, from Syria to South Sudan, from Bangladesh to Burundi.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., USA for UNHCR is a 501c3 nonprofit and the UNHCR’s national partner and fundraising arm in the U.S. private sector, helping and protecting refugees and people displaced by violence, conflict and persecution, and supporting the UN Refugee Agency and its partners around the world.

Yelena Bakaleva, a political refugee from Russia who knows what it’s like to start one’s life all over, found her “dream job” when she was named Chief Financial Officer in 2016. She inherited a relationship with YPTC in the person of Associate Vicki Edwards. The previous director of finance had quit and Vicki had been brought in to provide financial oversight and accounting services. Bakaleva came to a newly-created CFO position in a $50 million organization that was operating with no finance department — just Edwards and a part-time bookkeeper.

Edwards comes to the office several days a week depending on the organization’s needs. Vicki has been instrumental in the USA for UNHCR transition from QuickBooks to Intacct. She helps the organization prepare for the audit, manage the closing cycles and the various financial reporting for the departments and for the UNHCR. “She’s incredible,” Bakaleva exclaims. “Whenever there’s a need for additional insight she’s there. Vicki is not only a high-level professional but also has high-level work ethics. Her help is crucial in making sure our organization functions well.

“I could not be happier,” says Bakaleva. “Frankly, I would steal Vicki away in a heartbeat but she’s very loyal to YPTC!”

She adds, “It’s hard to find someone who is not only so knowledgeable but who can fit so well into your organizational culture. Vicki is a miracle maker and just a wonderful person all around. I feel privileged knowing her. She’s more than a consultant: she’s a founding member of our finance department.”

The finance department has since grown to include two full-time employees – an accountant and an accounting manager. “But even if I had 10 people in the department I would find a way to make sure we continued to use YPTC’s help. They have definitely made life easier and serve as an internal auditor with an independent set of eyes looking things over.”

Bakaleva also sees a parallel between USA for UNHCR’s organizational culture and that of YPTC: both offer a focus on employees’ well-being and work-life balance, with excellent benefits and employees who feel connected and respected by the organization and that they are making a real contribution.

“I have nothing but incredible things to say about YPTC, both from the level of professionalism and the level of customer service,” she adds. “To me, YPTC is the people who I work with. They truly care. I see them as a knowledgeable, helpful friend and now they have a really loyal customer.”