For more than a decade, Airbnb and Airbnb.org have connected people in times of crisis to free, temporary stays with the support of Hosts and non-profit organizations around the world. The inspiration for Airbnb.org began in 2012 with a single Host named Shell who opened up her home to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Since then, Airbnb and Airbnb.org have offered emergency stays for nearly 300,000 people, and guests have booked over 1.5 million nights1.
Established as an independent non-profit organization in December 2020, Airbnb.org is governed by its Board of Directors, who play an instrumental role in guiding its work and mission. Airbnb.org is excited to announce two new members of its Board of Directors: Catherine Powell, Global Head of Hosting at Airbnb, and Rich Serino, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Harvard’s School of Public Health and former Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Bringing industry expertise to advance Airbnb.org’s mission
Catherine and Rich each bring decades of industry expertise to help Airbnb.org scale its work and connect more people in need of emergency stays.
Rich has extensive leadership in emergency management, emergency medical and homeland security at local, state, federal, and international levels. He is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Harvard’s School of Public Health, supporting the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. Rich was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) eighth Deputy Administrator in October 2009 and served until 2014. During that time, Rich served as the agency’s Chief Operating Officer where he managed a budget of more than $25 billion and responded to over 60 national disasters, including flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes across the US. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Administrator, Rich spent 36 years at Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) where he rose through the ranks to become Chief and bolstered the city’s response plans for major emergencies.
I am honored to join the Board of Airbnb.org since I have seen first hand the need for short-term housing after a disaster or crisis. The ability to house an individual or a family in their time of need can be truly life changing, and Airbnb.org has and will continue to save and change lives by assisting with short-term housing.
Rich Serino, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Harvard’s School of Public Health
As the company’s Global Head of Hosting, Catherine oversees Airbnb’s community of more than 4 million Hosts. Prior to Airbnb, Catherine spent over 15 years at The Walt Disney Company, most recently as the President of Disney Parks Western Region. Catherine also serves as Airbnb.org’s executive sponsor at Airbnb, leading collaboration between Airbnb.org and the company and ensuring Airbnb.org has the resources it needs to provide emergency stays for people around the world. She offers invaluable insights as Airbnb.org relies on welcoming Hosts who open their homes to refugees, asylum seekers, and people fleeing natural disasters.
Working closely with its partners and Hosts, Airbnb.org has seen its impact dramatically increase and has recently carried out some of its largest responses to date. Since war broke out in Ukraine, for example, the organization has connected over 135,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine to temporary stays. It has been incredible to support this work, and I am honored to deepen my involvement with Airbnb.org as a Board Member.
Catherine Powell, Airbnb Global Head of Hosting
Drawing from their unique expertise, Catherine and Rich will continue to help Airbnb.org expand its impact. Airbnb.org’s Board of Directors now consists of seven leaders spanning the technology, design, non-profit, academic, and global humanitarian sectors. Together, they provide oversight and guidance for Airbnb.org’s work and priorities. Learn more about Airbnb.org’s Board members here.