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New guide aims to build welcoming infrastructure on campuses and local communities

October 27, 2023 — A new guide is available for higher education institutions seeking to welcome and support refugees on campus, as well as engage surrounding communities on refugee issues.

The AHLAN Manual (ahlan is an Arabic term to express welcome) was created and published by the Greensboro, North Carolina-based organization Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR). The guide is sponsored by Welcoming America’s Fund to Foster Belonging and the Refugee Resettlement Initiative of the National Association of System Heads (NASH).

To view and download the manual, readers must click the download button and fill out the Google Form to receive the toolkit.

Based on research conducted by Guilford College faculty and students, the guide provides context on the refugee resettlement process in the U.S., how to find and build a pool of advocates, tools and resources for students, staff, faculty, and administrators to map out a refugee “ecosystem” on campus and in the local community.

Rachel Perić, executive director of Welcoming America, said: “We are honored to support ECAR’s work in creating welcoming campuses for newcomers through our Fund to Foster Belonging grant. We are excited to see this addition to the welcoming field of work and grateful to ECAR’s leadership and partners for charting a path for the higher education community to get more involved in fostering belonging for all.”

Diya Abdo, Director of Every Campus A Refuge, said: “With 4,000 colleges and universities across the U.S., it is time for everyone involved in higher education and refugee resettlement to take very seriously the significant role campuses can play in transforming the landscape of refugee resettlement in our nation. The AHLAN Manual is an easy guide that every college or university can follow — no matter its location, resources, or whether it’s private, public, or community — to advance inclusion and belonging for newcomers in their communities.”

Colleen Thouez, Founder and Director of the NASH Refugee Resettlement Initiative, said: “In my many years working with universities, it is common to meet faculty, staff and students who want to help refugees, but often they are unsure how to do so. Every Campus A Refuge is the first ever roadmap for colleges and universities to support refugee families in their early months in this country. NASH – the leadership organization representing public university systems with over 420 university, college and community college campuses – is proud to help deepen ECAR’s reach. With the AHLAN Manual, we have a valuable resource that can further guide and assist existing champions of refugee support on university campuses, and future committed champions who will also benefit from this exceptional and historic program.”

Kyle Farmbry, President of Guilford College, said: “The AHLAN Manual is a resource eight years in the making. Ever since 2015, Guilford College and Every Campus A Refuge have been a proud beacon of support for refugees. I know other higher institutions will benefit greatly by learning from ECAR’s experiences over the years.”

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About Welcoming America

Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Learn more

About Every Campus A Refuge

Founded in 2015, Every Campus A Refuge’s mission is to mobilize colleges and universities to host refugees on campus grounds and support their successful integration. Since ECAR’s inception, 16 campuses including Lafayette College, Wake Forest University, Russell Sage College, Siena College, Washington State University, Old Dominion University, James Madison University, and Clemson University among others have started their own ECAR Chapters. ECAR has been recognized by the White House, the United Nations, and with several higher education community engagement awards. In addition to mobilizing universities to support refugee families, ECAR is a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Welcome Corps on Campus consortium, and will be supporting private sponsor groups at colleges and universities as they sponsor refugee students.

About the National Association of System Heads (NASH) Refugee Resettlement Initiative (RRI)

The National Association of System Heads (NASH) is a higher education leadership organization representing public systems of higher education across the United States. NASH’s Refugee Resettlement Initiative (RRI) aims to create welcoming campuses and promote the social and economic inclusion of refugees and displaced communities via higher education systems.

About Guilford College

Founded in 1837, Guilford is a liberal arts college of 1,200 students instilling innovative and principled problem-solving skills, experiences, and global perspectives to enable them to create positive change in the world. Located in Greensboro, North Carolina, Guilford is one of America’s remarkable Colleges That Change Lives.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Welcoming America: Lola Pak, lola@welcomingamerica.org

Every Campus A Refuge: Walid Mosarsaa, walid@everycampusarefuge.org

NASH: David Belsky, dbelsky@goodrebellion.com

Guilford College: Robert Bell, bellrw@guilford.edu

ECAR Joins Presidents’ Alliance to Urge University Sponsorship Support

Every Campus a Refuge was identified as a model for refugee support on university campuses by the Presidents’ Alliance. ECAR joined organizations in calling upon Secretary of State and Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services to pursue university-based sponsorship for refugee students and families. You can read the letter here: President’s Alliance Letter

Read more about other organizations joining in this call to action here.

Read the Inside Higher Ed article about this here.

Give a Kid Access!

Every Campus A Refuge and the Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning are working together to support children served by our programs in Greensboro’s refugee and immigrant communities. Some of the children in these communities are currently without technological devices or internet access, making it very difficult for them to participate in remote-schooling.

Here’s how you can help:

  • If you would like to donate a gently used laptop or tablet in good condition, please send us a direct message or email us at everycampusarefuge@guilford.edu.
  • You also can donate money for devices here: http://everycampusarefuge.net/donate-now/ – Please write “Give a Kid Access” in donation notes so we can ensure funds go toward this cause.
  • You can order a device through our Amazon wishlist!

Thank you for your help! Here’s our progress so far!

Thank you, ECAR volunteers!

Every Campus a Refuge thrives because of our wonderful volunteers. We are incredibly grateful for the ways our volunteers create a softer landing for our newly arrived refugee families, whether it is by tutoring, moving furniture, donating, creating fundraisers, making art, taking guests to the grocery store, providing transportation, going to conferences, or just building relationships with our guests. As we celebrate a chaotic and confusing end to the semester, we wanted to thank our volunteers for all of the hard work they’ve done this year. 

Ree Ree Wei

Ree Ree is minoring in Forced Migration and Resettlement Studies. She has represented ECAR at 2 conferences and has created a 5-minute documentary about one of ECAR’s families. She also spoke at “Shifting Worlds.” She loves that ECAR brings comfort to newly arrived refugees, and the warmth and care that volunteers provide to our guests.

Cade Wooten

Cade is a sophomore at Guilford College and assists our guests by providing transportation, tutoring, and shopping. They love the relationships they’ve created with families their past two years at Guilford. Last year, they volunteered over a hundred hours in just one semester!

Juliana Hubbard

Juliana is a first-year at Guilford College and volunteers by tabling, donation sorting, and checking on families.

Angela Morrow

Angela is a senior at Guilford College with a Business major and ECAR minor. She loves collecting donations to help refugees start their new life with all of the resources they need. She has also represented ECAR at many conferences!

Meriam Mckey

Meriam works for the Marketing Department at Guilford College as a researcher. She really admires the way ECAR volunteers work through language barriers to meet the needs of our guests. 

Jim Hood

Jim is a professor of English at Guilford College and has been a volunteer for 4 years. He often helps with transporting guests and furniture to ensure a swift moving process.

Kate Hood Seel

Kate retired as a Quaker Outreach Coordinator at Guilford College in 2018, but that didn’t stop her from continuing to volunteer with ECAR. She is currently tutoring members of the Al Khasrachi family who have long since left campus. She has become extremely close with the family and is honored to be an ECAR volunteer!

Kathleen Herbst

Kathleen began volunteering in 2017 and later graduated from Guilford with a minor in ECAR. She loved that it allowed her to become more connected to the greater Greensboro community. She is now the Program Coordinator, so she manages volunteers, tasks, and other needs for the organization. 

Hali Kohls

Hali served as the Program Coordinator for two years and now sits on the Board. Her favorite part about volunteering is assisting families with everyday tasks like navigating bank websites, scheduling appointments, which are skills she says she takes for granted in her own life. She believes that if more people recognized what they had to offer, they would go a step further to help.

ECAR welcomes first Spanish-speaking family

On March 3rd, Every Campus a Refuge welcomed our first Spanish-speaking guests. Our new family is a couple with three children. Many Spanish-speaking members of the community reached out to help and wanted to train to become ECAR volunteers. 

The family was greeted warmly at the Greensboro airport by a large group of volunteers, who had “Saludos!” signs and balloons.

“We had a lot of support for our new guests from volunteers. They were excited to view the campus and get to now people we passed. One of the adults in the family (the dad) wanted to tell his story at one of our events, but that was cancelled due to the virus. The oldest girl is into reading (and would love some Superwoman comics if anyone wants to get her some!) and the middle son is into art, specifically illustration. The youngest turned six shortly after arrival, and we held a small birthday party for him filled with soccer, snacks, and balloons,” said Program Coordinator Kathleen Herbst.

Volunteer Ree Ree Wei helped with setting up the house before their arrival; she was also part of the group that welcomed them at the airport.

“I think the family was pretty tired because they told us that they haven’t eaten in days, except for the food that they got from the airplane. At the same time, they were very happy and thankful to be here in Greensboro. They thanked us a lot of times during the time when they arrived at the airport up until we left the house that night. When I told them, ‘welcome to your home,’ the father asked, ‘this is my home?’ with a surprised and happy face. Since they arrived, I have been at the house a lot to show them around, and they would text me to ask for items or with any questions they may have. I took them to the bus depot to get bus passes with another volunteer. It was like a field trip for them because they got to see tall buildings downtown and they took pictures of the buses. I am still in contact with them to check in on them,” said Wei.

During this time, the family is doing well. ECAR is still checking in and supporting them in any way we can. If you would like to help, a Walmart gift card for groceries would be much appreciated.

If you want to mail or drop off anything for the new family, please email us at everycampusarefuge@guilford.edu. (Some non-urgent needs: they could use a bike pump; Superwoman comics and art supplies for the 11-year-old girl; toys for the six-year-old boy; a laptop for the mom).

ECAR coordinator attends First Annual Southeastern Immigration Studies Association Conference

Program Coordinator Kathleen Herbst represented Every Campus a Refuge at the First Annual Southeastern Immigration Studies Association Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. The conference was held at the College of Charleston on February 21st. Participants, presenters, and attendees gathered to discuss “current trends in immigration research and activism.”

Herbst held a panel titled “Dignity and Justice in Refugee Resettlement” and explained how attendees could implement ECAR chapters and find other ways to assist refugees in their resettlement. 

“I spoke to a group of about fifteen students, professors, and resettlement professionals during my session. The session was very interactive, and participants were engaged and interested in ECAR. I went through the process of how to start an ECAR chapter, and many wanted to know how they could contribute to their community if there wasn’t a program like ECAR. It was great to be reminded that, with a little information and direction, people want to support their local communities.” Herbst said.

Other presentations focused on issues around anti-immigration, detention centers, education equality, and asylum-seeking, as well as the strengths of youth organizing and advocacy. Herbst was especially drawn to a presentation about youth organizing.

“I attended a variety of presentations and panels, but my favorite was one by a group of middle-schoolers. They worked together to create an exhibit about immigration based off of interviews they conducted with immigrants and refugees in the United States. They spoke to people from a variety of different countries and regions. They shared, in an interactive part, that this project taught them about immigration as an ongoing process. These young students had a nuanced and compassionate view of immigration.” Herbst said.

All in all, Herbst was able to explore organizations who share similar missions to that of ECAR: “to call on every college and university in the world to partner with their local refugee resettlement agencies to house refugees on campus grounds and assist them in resettlement.”

“The conference was a short, but valuable, program. I networked, and we have a few more colleges interested in starting an ECAR campus or collaborating in some way. It’s important that we continue to share information, because people often want to help, but don’t know where to begin.” Herbst said.

Ben Tumin presents “1954” at Guilford College

On Thursday, January 16, Ben Tumin presented his “talkumentary”1954 at Guilford College as part of the Shifting Worlds Institute. Tumin is a comedian and filmmaker hailing from New York. He mainly uses history and humor to explore current socio political issues in order to uncover the truth not always found in a textbook. On this visit, his second time speaking at Guilford College, he asked the question: “Are we living in a post-truth era?”

He explored this question through the national coverage of the 1954 U.S.-led coup in Guatemala, exposing the flaws in journalism through first-hand accounts. He analyzed many articles that claimed the coup was warranted to stop the evils of communism. 

In reality, the United Fruit Company (the one that owns Chiquita bananas) was responsible for the falsities in reporting. In order to keep their hundreds of acres of land for banana farming, the company exploited the “red scare” to dismantle the Guatemalan government. The government at the time wasn’t even communist — it was a democratic government with socialist elements, and they wanted to buy their land back for the low price the company claimed it was really worth.

The U.S. intervention actually destroyed the democratic government in Guatemala. 

“We’re now living in a post-truth era, where it is hard to tell fact from fiction,” said Tumin.

Tumin came to this conclusion with the help of his mentor, historian Stephen Schlessinger Jr., who assisted him in uncovering the discrepancies in truth in the news at that time, and inspired him to pursue this topic. His documentary featured interviews with Schlessinger, as well as Oscar Augusto Rodas Rivera, a Guatemalan citizen who lived in Guatemala in 1954 and remembers the effects of the coup. 

Tumin also exposed the truth about false or watered-down information in history textbooks. Textbooks are produced by giant manufacturers that send their drafts to the Texas Board of Education, and those are who decides on what it emphasized. The Texas Board of Ed are not trained in history, and they are likely conservative. It is in their best interest to portray the United States as victorious and moral to raise patriotic citizens.

As a result, other countries are villainized. 

What does this mean for refugees, asylum-seekers, and im/migrants coming to the U.S.?

Tumin explained that the coup in 1954 led to some of the factors that caused forced migration of Central Americans. The U.S. instated Guatemalan government was a militaristic dictatorship in which the leader, Carlos Castillo Armas, banned other political parties and imprisoned those who went against him. The coup set the groundwork for the widespread instability seen today in many Central American countries.

Of all the refugees that came to the U.S. in the 1970s, only 3 of them committed murder. He noted that statistically, cows are more likely to kill than refugees are. In a time where news is often manipulated for political or capitalist gain, it is important to thoroughly do your research.
To learn more about Ben Tumin, visit his website here.

The Second Annual Shifting Worlds: Displacement and Forced Migration in Modern Times Institute


Guilford College Academic Dean Frank Boyd introducing the conference.

On Friday, January 17, the Second Annual Shifting Worlds: Displacement and Forced Migration in Modern Times Institute took place on Guilford College’s campus. The conference was moderated by Guilford’s own Drs. Diya Abdo, Mark Justad, and Christian Matheis as well as the Center for New North Carolinians’ Dr. Nneze Eluka and Kelsey White, and UNCG’s Naglaa Rashawn.
The conference focused on the mental health aspects of refugeeism, im/migration, and asylum-seeking. The morning session speakers delved into policies and practices. Law professor Dr. Margaret Taylor, Immigration Law specialist Helen Parsonage, and pediatrician Dr. Shruti Simha discussed the conditions of detention centers on the United States’ southern border. The speakers spoke of their experiences at the border, unjust reasons for detention centers, and the sometimes-irreparable damage to one’s brain due to exposure to constant toxic stress. Simha’s research highlighted the physical damage to a child’s neurons and their inability to develop and form properly under stress. While the conclusions were harrowing, the presenters inspired attendees to assist those who are in detention centers.

In the latter half of the morning session, Director of Immigration Law Clinic Katherine Reynolds and attorney Devon Senges explored U.S. policies regarding refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers, while anthropology professor Dr. Heide Castañeda presented on the migration determinants of mental health. Discussions revolved around the decreasing number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. each year, unconstitutional and inhumane policies, as well as the health issues that are present in families with mixed-citizenship-status. In 2016, 85,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S., whereas the cap for 2020 is only 18,000.

During the lunch session, students presented on their own research regarding refugee and immigrant issues. Guilford College senior Raina Baier discussed her own experience working with a refugee family. Also from Guilford, seniors Kentaro Nakajima, Carina Holmes, and Daisy Arguello displayed their research on FaithAction IDs and whether or not they are accessible and useful for immigrants and refugees (surveys show they are!). Additionally, UNCG MPH students Saif Al-Amin and Caroline Wells examined the HIV/Aids crisis in Myanmar regarding refugeeism.

Baier was grateful for her opportunity to present.

“It was really very humbling and exciting to be able to present my own work in tandem with the work of the organization. I felt like the key presenters were speaking from a place of more experience and listening to their work was equally as encouraging as it was disheartening because even though there are people being hurt by this crisis every hour, the encouraging part is that we can meet here and exchange with those who are doing the actual work. I also appreciated that the conference made a point to include the voices of people who have first-hand experiences instead of just academic voices,” Baier said.


Raina Baier presenting her research.

Presenters at the afternoon session of the conference delved into community support and initiatives. Capt. Curi Kim, UNCG alumna Siddiga Ahmed, and UNC MSW student Tamesha Clark explored the mental health needs of refugees and migrants in the United States. The speakers engaged with common mental disorders that result from migration and the studies around the Bhutanese suicide epidemic. Multiple presenters expressed the importance of mental health screening for refugees and shared testimonies from people who found it helpful.

Yoga therapist Mona Flynn, IAC Director Jose Bernal, NAI’s Leilani Roughton, ECAR Program Coordinator Kathleen Herbst, Refugee Coordinator Vung Ksor discussed community-based support initiatives for refugees and immigrants in NC. Initiatives included free community yoga, the Faith Action International house, English classes, education, and job counseling at NAI, ECAR chapters at colleges and universities, and healthcare access at the CNNC. Flynn even got attendees engaged in a much needed yogic stretch during her presentation. Anonymous questions indicated school representatives wanting to implement ECAR on their campuses.


Institute attendees participating in a quick yoga session.

Guilford College senior Allie Eigsti attended the conference and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon session.

“I found the information on community support to be incredibly useful to gain an understanding of the wide variety of stressors people may face when resettling in the Greensboro area. It was interesting to learn how immigrant-led initiatives are working to empower recently-settled people and the steps community members can take to get involved,” Eigsti said.

Toward the end of the conference, attendees heard powerful testimonies from refugees. Guilford College junior Ree Ree Wei, CNNC’s Raouf Ousmane, and UNCG alumna Noor Ghazi shared their personal stories. Stories ranged from begging for resettlement anywhere but the United States to embracing the skills and resilience learned from translating for one’s family. Those who attended were grateful for the openness of the speakers. 


Raouf Ousmane speaking about his personal experience with resettlement.

After the presentations, attendees were invited to browse tables featuring art, jewelry, clothing, and food crafted by refugee vendors. The institutes represented at the conference tabled alongside the vendors so people could find ways to get more involved. Canadian and Latinx musician Quilla performed at the reception. Of Peruvian descent, Quilla is an avid supporter of im/migrant and refugee rights. She performed songs inspired by themes of migration, climate change, and personal transformation.


Quilla performing at the reception.

Special thanks to Guilford’s Center for Principled Problem Solving and Excellence in Teaching, Office of Advancement, the Anthropology, Sociology, Justice and Policy Studies Departments, as well as Peace and Conflict Studies Departments, Every Campus a Refuge, University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Center for New North Carolinians, and Elon University for coming together to create this conference. If you would like to learn more or get involved, the organizations that attended the conference will be listed below.

New Arrivals Institute

FaithAction

LifeFit Yoga

Church World Service

Siembra NC

ECAR and “Shifting Worlds” featured on The State of Things

On Tuesday, January 14th, Dr. Diya Abdo spoke on WUNC 91.5 about the upcoming Shifting Worlds: Displacement and Forced Migration in Modern Times conference this Friday, January 17th. Hosted by Guilford College, Elon University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference will be examining the cultural and economic barriers regarding refugee and migrant access to mental health resources.

Dr. Abdo and executive director of New Arrivals Institute Leilani Roughton discussed the myths surrounding migration and refugeeism with the host of The State of Things, Frank Stasio.

Listen to their discussion on WUNC 91.5’s The State of Things here.

The New Arrivals Institute

UARRM Conference

On November 1st, Dr. Diya Abdo and Guilford College junior Ree Ree Wei attended the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants Second Annual Gathering at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Wei is a Forced Migration and Resettlement Studies minor, as well as an ECAR volunteer. The conference focused on ways students and other university personnel could support refugees and at-risk migrants through safe and sustainable means.

Dr. Abdo and Wei facilitated a session on ECAR’s practices. Wei expanded on her experiences as an ECAR volunteer.

“Volunteering for ECAR is rewarding and fun. I get to build trust and friendships in a short amount of time with our guests, and we stay connected to them once they leave campus.” Wei said.

Ree Ree Wei takes notes during a presentation.

Wei was also in attendance at the UN conference in January of this year. She found the UARRM conference to be more hands-on and interactive. She was impressed with the attendance of deans and other administrative university figures and felt hopeful that they were willing to learn from students.

Students involved in Lafayette College’s ECAR chapter (located in Easton, PA) were in attendance, among many other refugee and migrant support organizations. The ECAR founder spent time talking to Lafayette’s chapter about best practices, problem-solving and learning about how they sustain a completely student-run organization. Wei was particularly impressed with another student-run organization at Rutgers University, RU Dreamers.

“The organization received $3 million from a New Jersey state legislator to fund the educations of undocumented students at Rutgers. I was impressed with the ways they were able to work with not just the school’s community, but the broader community of parents, business owners, and other community members. They did a good job of utilizing community powers and not just the institution’s powers.” Wei said.

ECAR is an asset-based community of practice that harnesses the power of community resources and organizations to support vulnerable communities. To learn more about our work and how your campus can become a refuge, please email everycampusarefuge@gmail.com.