Imagining America Conference at the University of New Mexico

Dr. Diya Abdo and Program Coordinator Kathleen Herbst represented Every Campus a Refuge at the 20th Anniversary National Gathering of the Imagining America Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The gathering took place on October 18th at the University of New Mexico. The theme of the conference was “Mighty Dreams: Designing and Fostering Belonging in ‘America’.” 

Dr. Abdo and Herbst presented on how to implement ECAR on private versus public campuses, as well as how students can engage with refugee communities in their area without necessarily hosting families on their campuses. 

“At a private college, we have a little bit more freedom than public universities may have. At public universities, they may have to host off but near campus or volunteer with local refugee communities.” Herbst said.

They helped attendees brainstorm ways they can start an ECAR chapter that is personalized for their campus or just support their local refugee communities. The primary goal of ECAR is to create a softer landing for refugees so they can strongly re-establish themselves in their new homes. Some things to consider before implementing an ECAR chapter is who in your community can provide what resources as well as looking into local resettlement agencies.

The conference featured many local organizations in New Mexico, as well as those from further away. Herbst was particularly struck by filmmaker Michelle Angela Ortiz’s documentary “Las Madres de Berks.” The documentary was about Berks family detention center and the oppression and abuse that resides in its walls.

“That was something that really reminded me of the way in which ECAR can also be every campus a sanctuary; we need to fight against family detention centers as well.” Herbst said.

Ortiz presented her documentary over Skype and talked about hands-on activism. She advised finding and protesting local detention centers as well as mobilizing art to spread awareness. Herbst was moved by her presentation and believed that this creative problem-solving method could be applied to ECAR as well.

“We should be finding ways in which we can use our own strengths to support change.” Herbst said.

ECAR is in itself a hands-on organization that implores others to assist refugees in their communities. Our volunteers range from driven artists to passionate fundraisers and those with a variety of strengths. What skills do you have? How can we hone our own skills and resources to create change and support refugees?

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