Meet Lila Rollo


Lila Rollo, Refugee Case Coordinator

A Buffalo native and something of a polyglot, Ms. Rollo works in New American Integration helping the Institute’s clients adjust to their new lives in Western New York.

Where are you from, how long have you been at the Institute, and what do you do here?

[LR]: I was born and raised here in Buffalo and I work in the New American Integration department handling training, case compliance, donations and general management duties.  I started working here in November 2016, but left from August 2017 until I returned this May.

What type of training do you have that has aided in your work?

[LR]: I joined the military right out of high school and was trained as an Arabic linguist, which has really helped working with many of my clients.  I also have an AA in Levantine Studies (referring to the Eastern Mediterranean region) from the Defense Language Institute.  I am starting at Buffalo State for Social Work this Fall.

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about working at an organization like the Institute?

[LR]: Being a part of the resettlement process is very rewarding for me.  I am able to watch my clients grow and help them become active in their new community.  Watching someone be able to write their name for the first time or a kid on their first day of school and seeing that happiness is what makes this job so great.

What is the first word that comes to mind when I say “International Institute of Buffalo”?

[LR]: Home.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of (at work or outside of work)?

[LR]: Learning Hungarian.

Since the Institute works with diverse people from all over the world, can you share with us your own heritage?

[LR]: Like most of us in America, my ancestors are from all over, but through my paternal great-grandfather, I am Sicilian.  My family is from a small town called Serradifalco and first settled in Pittston before arriving to Buffalo in the 1940s.  I still have my great-grandparents trunks they brought to Ellis Island.  My Dad’s side is very proud to be Sicilian, and so I grew up identifying the most with those roots.  But do not ask me to speak Sicilian, because I never learned!

Given the international nature of the Institute, have you traveled abroad? Any places on your bucket list?

[LR]: In high school, I did a Rotary Exchange to Hungary, so my senior year was spent in Szeged.  While living there, I also took trips to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Romania, Serbia, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  It is my goal to go back to Hungary for an extended stay, as the country is so full of culture—really a hidden gem of Europe.  

If you could sit down with any historical figure, who would you choose?

[LR]: Eleanor Roosevelt, hands down. 

Favorite international food?

[LR]: I would like to thank my clients for opening up my taste-buds…their cooking is amazing.  I recently tried injera and berbere lentils, so I will be on an Ethiopian kick for a while.  As for desserts, Knafeh Nablusieh (sweet cheese pastry) will always hold a dear place in my heart.  

Favorite book?

[LR]: Christina Rossetti’s The Goblin Market.

What can you tell me about your life away from the Institute?

[LR]: I am addicted to the show 90 Day Fiancé and watch it every Sunday, but I also spend a lot of time with my family when not at work.

Lila with her siblings.

What are three traits you would say define you?

[LR]: Loyal, Compassionate and Resilient.