This document covers in an organized and thorough manner how to implement Every Campus A Refuge on your campus and the best way to go about it.
View the document below or click here for our Best Practices Manual!
The Official Guide to Making Your Campus a Refuge
Updated February 2023
©2023 Every Campus A Refuge
Who is a refugee?
To qualify for the status of refugee, a person must be forced to flee their country due to risk of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
For more information on refugees, see the United Nations page on refugees: www.unrefugees.org
Refugees undergo the following to be admitted:
- A rigorous screening process by multiple US Government agencies
- A thorough health screening
- Several interviews by multiple governmental organizations and agencies
- Sponsorship assurance from a U.S.-based resettlement agency
For more information on the refugee acceptance process, see the state website: (https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/).
Diya Abdo, Lincoln Financial Professor of English at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, was inspired by the Pope’s call on every parish to host a refugee family, as well as the Arab-Islamic word for campus (حرم), which means "sanctuary,” to begin Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR). ECAR is an initiative that calls on every college and university around the world to host one refugee family on their campus and to assist them in resettlement. Private colleges in particular have a unique ability to play a pivotal role in housing and resettling refugees. You can learn more about ECAR’s journey and creation through Diya Abdo’s TED Talk here.
Collectively, ECAR campuses have hosted dozens of refugees on campuses across the USA. As of June 2022, Guilford College, our flagship campus, has hosted over 86 people in total, with 16 Afghan evacuees hosted in the spring semester alone. Other campuses include Wake Forest University which has hosted 21 refugees thus far; Lafayette College which has hosted over 24; and Russell Sage College, Siena College, and Old Dominion University each having hosted a family since joining the ECAR network in the spring of 2022. The campus communities help hosted refugees resettle in their respective communities and continue to maintain contact with them after they transition to their permanent off-campus housing. Formerly hosted guests sometimes return to the program to assist currently hosted families in their resettlement and provide translation services.
The campus, working across its various departments and in collaboration with its local community, welcomed not just families but the "real world" into its proverbial "bubble."
During this time of deep Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism, there is no better moment for campuses to intervene directly and materially in the discourse around refugees, immigrants and "others" — to transform the narrative from one of fear to fact, hatred to empathy, ignorance to awareness.
Steps to Becoming an ECAR Campus
It is important to note that ECAR calls on campuses to host one family. In other words, you can do this just one time. This means that you do not have to commit to the program for more than a few months. However, you can also host more than one family, as the Guilford College, Lafayette College, and Wake Forest University Chapters do.
- Identify whether ECAR suits your campus.
As you think about making your campus a refuge, consider the following questions.
Do you have support from your campus community?
It is important that your campus community is on board, both for the success of the program at your institution and the safety of any refugees you may host.
What kind of network and resources can your community offer?
Whether the program is a good fit for your school also depends on what kind of support you can garner. Hosting requires a community support network. It is important to build that from the beginning. Holding a community event, such as a call for action, in a manner best suited to your campus culture will help determine who is interested and where support can come from. At this point you will also want to identify people, clubs, and organizations with various skills, passions, and assets that you can tap into when the time comes to host a family.
Do you have the room and financial support for the program?
Another pivotal aspect needed to lay down the infrastructure for ECAR is identifying your institutional home/space. Most schools have a program or department that will support such an initiative financially, programmatically and otherwise. These are typically programs that cater to service-learning, engaged-teaching, community engagement etc. At Guilford College, the Center for Principled Problem Solving became our home. In addition, there are other stakeholders (department, programs, offices or faculty) that can provide support. Identifying these various assets and resources will help you mobilize your campus and lay out the infrastructure for the program in a more efficient and inexpensive manner.
- Approaching Administration: Getting Approval
Getting administrative approval and support is crucial to having ECAR on your campus. The approach you take to convincing your administration to adopt the program varies depending on your school.
Approaching your administration will vary according to your institution’s size and culture. At some schools, like Guilford College, access to the President is very feasible and requires little bureaucracy. Other schools, however, could require months of scheduling and appointments.
There isn’t any correct approach to an administration. Therefore, it is very important to know your institution’s culture, history, and background, so that the language being used is aligned with the school’s character.
For example, if you are at a faith-based school, using the language and practices of that particular faith will help strengthen your message and allow it to resonate more with the administration. Guilford College is a Quaker institution that believes in a set of core values that guide its decisions. When ECAR was presented to Guilford College’s president at the time, Jane Fernandes, we emphasized the importance of living out our core values, especially the stewardship of resources in the service of justice and community.
Moreover, it is important to emphasize to your administration that this initiative is not a charity: it is a globally minded, locally focused community engagement and service learning project that allows students to actively learn about a wide range of issues, from the reasons for forced migration to local policies on health and immigration.
Approaching the institution’s administration can happen individually, through a petition or student organization, or by forming a group of supporters that might include students, faculty, staff, alumni and Board members.
Administrative Perspective: Todd Clark
Todd Clark, Guilford’s former Vice President of Student Affairs, was heavily involved in the process of connecting administrative work to the organizational work on Guilford’s campus. He worked with the program since its origination, aided in defining parameters, navitated campus policies and politics, worked within college operations, and served as a volunteer with his family.
Clark found that students were enthusiastic and ready to help but that the administration had to mitigate some of the aspirations to doable and practical ones. However, he encourages chapters to hear ideas from many people, considering the various options and ideals others bring in.
CWS Greensboro, our partnering refugee resettlement agency, was an important resource in understanding the college’s role in the refugee resettlement process, as well as for information about the process in our area. The advice and work from the resettlement agency was crucial in understanding the process.
It is important to have patience with these kinds of administrative services since support from the institution’s lawyers, faculty leadership, school board members (etc.) is pivotal to creating a successful ECAR experience. Clark notes that this process went relatively smoothly at Guilford but could be a larger issue at public schools or schools that are simply not as receptive to having refugees on campus.
Clark specifies that while the Guilford community was very supportive of the movement, he still had to be aware of potential issues. Given all these commitments, it is necessary to remember that ECAR (as long as you are hosting a family: whether you do that once for a few months or consistently) is a time-consuming endeavor. As such, it is important to have an organizer or leader at individual chapters, a person who can be depended on while you are hosting a family.
Clark emphasized that though ECAR is certainly a significant commitment that may seem like an “impossible dream,” it is ultimately achievable, and pays back in the long run. He noted, for example, how the program has been a tangible testament to Guilford’s core values, how it creates a significant learning opportunity in relation to the plight of refugees, and how it connects students and faculty to relevant issues around the globe, thus making the education at Guilford “real.”
- Partner with a local refugee resettlement agency
Local refugee resettlement agencies place tens of thousands of refugees across all 50 states each year. There are 9 national resettlement agencies in the USA, with more than 300 regional offices. Use our ECAR Map to find a resettlement agency office near you.
Resettlement agencies will prepare for the arrival of their cases and provide housing and other services to their clients for the duration of the resettlement period, which is three months from arrival. Such resources include language education, culture classes, job classes and legal support for immigrants. It is important that guests seek these resources, and not rely on volunteers, so as to reduce dependence.
With the world currently experiencing its largest refugee crisis since WWII, and a growing xenophobic and anti-refugee political climate, resettlement agencies are strapped for resources. Most agencies are underfunded and their staff are often overworked. Nevertheless, despite their needs, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the individual cases assigned to them by the government. They are highly experienced in working with refugees and are knowledgeable about what resources and experiences their cases, including ECAR guests, need. It is important when fostering this relationship to be attentive to the agency’s needs, as the goal is to support their work in co-sponsoring a family. Resettlement agencies are often more than happy to partner and work with you.
The refugee resettlement agency will have expectations and standards that you must follow to be able to serve their clients (the refugees you host). Every family will be assigned a case manager prior to arrival. This person is responsible for making the hosted guests’ appointments with the health department, schools, and other governmental agencies. Representatives from the agency will likely examine housing and furnishings for the guests prior to arrival. Case managers are instrumental to both guests and volunteers.
It is important that the nature of the relationship and the expectations from the agency and your ECAR chapter are discussed prior to the partnership so that you are all able to serve the clients to the best of your abilities. You can create a Memorandum of Understanding with your partner agency to lay out expectations for both parties. An example of this can be found in the appendix.
- Foster community buy-in
Fostering community investment is pivotal for the work of ECAR, as the center of our mission is to connect refugees to a resourced community that supports them. There are numerous ways to mobilize your community at different stages of your implementation of ECAR on your campus.
Prior to your administration’s approval, you should foster community support. At this stage, you will find potential supporters and volunteers. You are raising awareness about refugee causes, ECAR, and trying to convince your campus community to become a hosting campus. The following is a list of actions that can be taken to raise awareness and promote ECAR:
- Hold panels, informational talks, and film screenings on refugee issues.
- Write op-eds in school newspapers and utilize other media at the institution (radio station, TV station, social media, etc.)
- Meet with student body representatives from student government, and other student clubs and organizations.
Creating a Network of Support
It is important to collect data about interested stakeholders. Volunteers and donors are the backbone of your post-approval work; they will help your families accomplish their tasks. Multilingual volunteers are an asset, too. They can often serve as “cultural brokers” or mediators for the families. Volunteers are required to be trained and their background checked by the resettlement organization. This is important for the security and privacy of the family. For more information, view the Volunteer Section on pages 27-28.
Donors can provide financially and help reduce costs through donations. Before accepting donations, contact your institution’s Office for Advancement to ensure that donations will be processed and designated correctly. Your Office of Advancement can also help you access the alumni network and request donations through telephone campaigns, mass emails, and mail. You may also consider holding community events such as performances, dinners, and bake sales to raise funds to support your ECAR chapter. In addition to alumni, departments on campus may pledge amounts to your chapter depending on your school policy. The student body can also be a generous source for both funding and donations. Reach out to student government, clubs, and organizations and ask for monetary support, especially towards the end of the fiscal year when they might have some remaining funds they can no longer spend or rollover. Make sure that you are following your institution’s rules and guidelines regarding donations, creating a budget-line to receive donations, and keeping track of your funds. In the appendix on page 37, there is a sample letter that can be used to reach out to both departments on campus, and student clubs and organizations.
Material Donations & Tax Deductions
The second best thing to financial donations are material donations. When needed items are directly donated, they help cut costs because you are not pulling funds from your budget. There are numerous avenues to reach out to the public and request such items. Posting on social media and on online community networks, such as Nextdoor, are a great way to get second-hand or even brand new items, like furniture. Certain items may not be second-hand for hygiene purposes, such as towels, mattresses, and sheets. Check with your resettlement organization to ensure that the items you are providing are in line with their expectations and guidelines. You may also collaborate with other institutions and schools (including high schools and elementaries) to hold fundraisers and drives to support your chapter and guests.
Material donations are tax deductible. Check with your Office of Advancement about providing tax receipts or acknowledgements of in-kind donations to donors. It is important to follow up with donations by mailing personalized thank you notes to donors to show your appreciation. (Sample in-kind donation forms on pages 35 & 36)
If you start receiving more donations than needed, do not use them all at once. Taper off social media posts and requests to reduce donor fatigue. Try to identify a storage location (on or off-campus) where such items can be utilized in the future. If that is not possible, consider forwarding those items to other refugees in need through the resettlement organization.
Try securing bicycles, helmets, and bike locks for each of your guests as they are an important form of transportation for new arrivals until they are able to take a driver’s test and purchase a car. Volunteers can provide bicycle safety training for guests. Guilford College currently partners with Bikewala, a local organization that fixes up used bicycles and donates them back to people in need in the community. Contact your local health department to find out about free helmets available in your area.
In addition to volunteers and donors, it is important to build community partnerships to further assist your chapter. Partnerships with local grocery stores and co-ops, or hiring agencies will make a tremendous impact in your experience and the experience of your family. In Greensboro, we have partnered with the Deep Roots Grocery Co-op, which is a part of a national network. Deep Roots member, Jonathan Maj, will help connect your chapter with a co-op in your area to assist in getting food for the family before they receive their food stamps and other government benefits. (See more on page 29 on community involvement and resources)
- Host a family
You’ve received approval from your administration, partnered with a resettlement organization, and developed a network of volunteers…
Now is the time to identify appropriate housing on campus.
There are rules and guidelines to help you determine what makes such housing appropriate.
Make sure you are communicating with both those responsible for housing on your campus and the resettlement agency when deciding on housing. The type of housing will also affect the type of case you will receive. If it is a suite in a dorm, you’d only be able to house a single person or a young couple. If it is a family then available faculty or staff housing, or housing close to campus and for which you might be able to raise funds for rent, will be more appropriate.
One of the benefits of finding a home for ECAR on campus is that this will more likely be funded by the institution, significantly reducing your expenses.
Remember, your campus need do this only once! Check to see if there is a faculty or staff house that is between tenants or will be sitting unused for a few months and ask to use it to host a family for that period of time. In such a case, you are stewarding an available resource that would otherwise be sitting there unused.
Supplies for Case Needs
The resettlement agency should provide you with a list of the items the case needs. Guilford’s ECAR chapter uses a list provided by CWS Greensboro (see page 42). Additionally, we have found that several additional items have been necessary to provide for a satisfactory living situation. After receiving your official list, don’t be afraid to add to it; remember we want each guest to feel as at home as possible.
At this point, you should receive a case from the resettlement agency, and learn a little about the hosted guests’ details, demographics, and travel information. It is important to do some research regarding the hosted guests’ origins so as to be mindful of their needs and act in a culturally appropriate manner.
In addition to furnishing the home, it is also important to have food, cleaning supplies, and other things necessary for living. If there are babies in the family, appropriate bedding, as well as diapers, playpens, cribs, strollers, car seats, and baby food, would also be needed. The family will be reliant on your ECAR chapter as well as volunteers for groceries, typically until they receive their food stamps (EBT cards). Receiving their food stamps can take anywhere from one week to a month. In the following pages, you will find a sample list of culturally appropriate food to buy. Afterwards, it is important that they shop on their own. Our goal is to help them become self-reliant and self-sufficient. Shopping and budgeting for their own groceries is a great step towards independence.
Resettlement Agency Housing Approval
Prior to the arrival of the family, the case manager, or a representative from the resettlement agency will come to inspect the house and ensure that it is in line with their expectations and safety requirements. It is also important that campus security and administrators are informed of the family’s arrival, residence on campus, and other important details. In the following pages you will find documents to be provided to your campus’ security explaining the program and details regarding the family.
Other Needs & Services Provided
At Guilford, the hosted families receive, in addition to free housing (furnished according to CWS standards), utilities, Wi-Fi, and use of college facilities and resources (classes, gym, library, cafeteria etc.). For example, the father of one of the hosted families is an artist who has use of a private studio and supplies provided by Guilford’s art department. His work was later exhibited in the College art gallery. Think creatively and broadly about how your school’s facilities could be incorporated into the ECAR program. You can read more about this guest here.
Privacy and Community
It is permissible to announce that guests are arriving to the general community and untrained people, but it is imperative that their privacy and information (including origin) as well as housing location remain undisclosed and provided only to the trained and vetted volunteers. It is also important that while they are staying on campus, the hosted guests are never asked to “do” anything – especially make appearances (on or off-campus) or give interviews (public or private) etc. Their agency and dignity are of the utmost importance and they should be free to make their choices autonomously. Asking them to do something while they are on campus is a false choice since they might not feel comfortable or able to say “no” while they are dependent on you for material support. At Guilford College, we refused several media stories that asked for breaching such confidentiality. The guests’ safety and dignity must be the program’s first and foremost priority. Thus, volunteers are told explicitly and through the confidentiality agreements they sign not to share confidences and to treat all information they receive from the hosted guests as classified. We also do not share images or information about hosted guests on our social media; the refugees we host are not a PR opportunity.
Working With Your College or University
In order to make the transition onto campus as smooth as possible, you will want to be in touch with your public safety department, giving them basic necessary information. You can see the sample letter forwarded to the Public Safety Department at Guilford College in the appendix on page 34.
Food requirements and dietary restrictions vary from culture to culture. Luckily, World Relief Durham has organized a list of foods to purchase for refugees according to their country of origin. This link will take you to their website where you can access up to 14 different grocery lists customized to each country of origin. Such lists will minimize costs and reduce food waste as you are not purchasing food and items the guests will not use or do not need.
Grocery List for Congolese refugees—courtesy of World Relief Durham:
- Fresh spinach (1 bag per household)
- Fresh green beans (2 servings per person)
- Carrots (1 bag per household)
- Tomato (2 per person)
- Onions (2 per person)
- Sweet potatoes (1 per person)
- Bananas (1 bunch per household)
- Oranges (1 large bag per household)
- White rice (1 very large bag per household)
- Whole chicken (1 per household)
- Corn flour (1 bag per household)
- Garlic (1 bulb per household)
- Black pepper (1 box per household)
- Salt (1 box per household)
- Cooking oil (1 large bottle per household)
- Sugar (1 bag per household)
- Black tea (1 box of bags per household)
- Orange Juice (1 gallon per household)
Liability and Insurance
Your institutions’ existing general insurance will more than likely cover ECAR. We encourage you to check with your College’s insurance provider for guidance. Insurance coverage and policies can vary from state to state, as well as among companies. However, chances are you will be covered.
With regards to insurance for volunteers using their cars to transport refugees, most local resettlement agencies have a policy to cover volunteers.
Lastly, health insurance for the family is provided for by the government. Refugees qualify for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. All refugees entering the United States qualify for 9 months of Medicaid coverage, regardless of their marital status or pre-existing conditions. Refugees with children are also eligible for other state and federal programs, which vary from state to state. Some of these programs include the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Other programs include Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA). Your local resettlement agency, as well as the Department of Social Services can guide you to what healthcare programs your guest(s) qualify for at the state and federal level.
Welcoming Your Guests
Now that the residence is fully furnished, prepared, and stocked with food and other supplies, it is time to welcome your guests. When refugees arrive in the United States, they typically do not have anyone to receive them or welcome them to their new home. They are usually only received by their case manager who picks them up from the airport.
Arrival and Welcome
At ECAR, we like to warmly welcome our incoming families into their new community, and throw them a small reception, celebrating their arrival into the country. We call on all of our trained volunteers to show up at the airport at the time and date of arrival, with balloons and welcoming signs. These volunteers can also help with transportation back to campus. Keep in mind that for children, appropriate seating is required as per state and federal laws. Therefore, it is important to provide age appropriate and unexpired car seats for the ride back to campus and also for future car transport.
Once they arrive at their new home, it is customary to take your guests on a tour of the house with the refugee resettlement agency case manager and an interpreter. This tour should include an explanation of how to use appliances and other devices at home. In certain cases, they may never have had access to indoor bathrooms and electricity. In such a situation, it is important to also explain their use clearly.
Lease & Legal Documents
Following the tour, you should provide and go over a welcome letter explaining ECAR to the new arrivals in their native language. It is also important to sign any lease or documents required by your school. Even if this is not required by your school, creating a lease document with your ECAR chapter can be good practice for future document signing. This lease (showing their address) is also what they will use to enroll their children in the district schools and to receive important mail from the U.S. government and others. In the lease document, it should be specified what items they get to keep from the house as well as the duration of their stay.
Afterwards, it is customary to provide a culturally appropriate hot meal. After serving the meal, provide them with important contact information and leave the family to rest for the remainder of the day.
The first few weeks
The first few weeks after the hosted guests’ arrival are critical for their progress. During this time, the guest must apply for all their governmental documents, including their social security, work permit, food stamps, and Medicaid. Some documents, such as the employment card, will be applied for through the resettlement agency directly. Other paperwork needs to be processed in person at different governmental departments. It is the responsibility of the case manager to make and follow up on these appointments, but they may lean on your ECAR chapter and volunteers to take the guest(s) to such appointments.
Since newcomers have Medicaid for only the first 9 months of their arrival (unless it is renewed), it is important to make all medical appointments as soon as they receive their Medicaid cards. Dental work in particular might require several months and is very expensive when no longer covered by insurance.
At Guilford, the above mentioned resettlement tasks are assigned by CWS, while cultural, social and arising needs are assigned by ECAR. The CWS case manager and the ECAR Program Coordinator oversee the 125+ volunteers who carry out these tasks. Background checked and trained by CWS, these volunteers are Guilford students, alumni, faculty, administrators and staff; their spouses; faculty, students, and staff from nearby Bennett College; local high schools; local faith communities; and Guilford friends. Volunteers provide airport welcome, prepare campus housing, raise and collect funds and in-kind donations, share meals and act as cultural brokers, provide interpretation, assist with childcare and job-hunting, make important resettlement appointments (DSS, medical, etc.), assist with shopping, transportation, filling out government forms, finding off-campus housing, and moving. They continue to assist with goals set during the hosting period such as GED or driving license acquisition.
Volunteers should also take case notes for your partner resettlement agency’s files. The volunteer forms (example on page 40) serve as case notes and will be sent to the program coordinator, who will send them to your resettlement agency. These are very important for keeping track both for the agency’s records and your chapter’s.
Social Security Card Applications
One of the first tasks to be completed after arrival is taking the family to apply for their social security cards. Completed applications should be provided by your partner resettlement agency. Clients will receive a receipt, which they can use during the Food Stamps and Medicaid application process before their official social security cards arrive in the mail (typically 2-3 weeks after application).
After your guests have applied for their social security cards, they can be taken to the Department of Social Services to apply for Food Stamps (SNAP on EBT cards). More information about the application process, how to activate your card, check your balance, when monthly funds will be available, etc. is available here (NC specific): https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/food-and-nutrition-services-food-stamps/electronic-benefit-transfer-ebt .
EBT Edge (https://www.ebtedge.com/gov/portal/PortalHome.do) is an online portal and phone app that can be used to answer EBT-related questions on the go and allow guests to track their deposits, balances, reports, etc. EBT cards are also where Work First and other forms of cash assistance deposits will be made.
School System (Children)
It is also important to register any children at their local schools as soon as possible. In some cities and towns, refugees and migrants have access to special schools that cater to their segment of the population and allow these students to catch up with their American peers. In Greensboro, this school is called the Doris Henderson Newcomers School. Your partner agency should know about whether such a school exists in your community or not. All schools require the registered children to have their immunizations and physical examination within 30 days from their registration at the school. Make sure their appointments are made through their case manager.
Guests might not be familiar with the US school bus system. Therefore, it might be necessary to wait with the children at the bus stop the first couple of times so that they learn the system.
In addition to the children going to school, the adults also have access to education that can help them navigate the new society they have entered. Most resettlement organizations offer cultural orientation classes in which they teach recently resettled refugees about the various aspects of life in the area. In addition to cultural orientation classes, resettlement agencies may offer language classes to help advance people’s English language skills. In some cities, such as Greensboro, there might be more than one institution offering ESL courses for immigrants and refugees. At Guilford’s chapter, we partnered with the New Arrivals Institute, which is an educational organization dedicated to ESL learning for refugees and immigrants. NAI has more resources and staff dedicated towards ESL than the resettlement agency, and so became an important asset to Guilford’s ECAR chapter.
The first few weeks are when you should be building your relationship with your guest(s), as well as establishing the boundaries between your ECAR chapter and your guest(s). It is important to remember that you are merely helping the guest(s) stand independently on their feet; creating dependency will only yield negative results, and might create a strain on your resources, as well as support for future guests. This period of time should focus on achieving short term goals that the guest would have been unable to pursue due to the time constraints of the sponsorship period at the resettlement agency.
This is also a great time for your guests to start searching for suitable employment. You can connect with a local hiring agency to find employment opportunities. Due to the aforementioned constraints and limitations of the sponsorship period, refugees are often inclined to take the first job they receive without consideration of their wants, needs, skills, or talents. Being on campus and not having to worry about certain payments will allow cases to search for more suitable employment, further enabling them to succeed. Your ECAR chapter is granting them more control over their life and their decisions simply by allowing them to deny and accept jobs.
Your ECAR chapter may not necessarily be required to help your case find employment; however, the case might need assistance in creating a resume, going to interviews, and filling out applications. Check out your school’s Career Services to see if they can help with resume building. It is also good to note that certain businesses and employers in your area might be more inclined to hire refugees. Find out who these employers are, and try to build a relationship and possibly a partnership with them so as to serve your current or future cases.
It is extremely important that your case finds employment before leaving campus. This will help in providing enough background when applying for certain housing, in addition to creating an income to further foster independence.
Prior to the move, you and your guests must start searching for appropriate housing. Figure out their rent budget, as well as their wants and needs. Many landlords/leasing agencies require that the tenants make 3x the rent amount monthly. They will likely need proof of income, which is also helpful in determining what they will qualify for.
Most refugees are often denied the choice in deciding where they want to live, and have to live for the duration of their initial lease (often between three months and one year) in a place determined for them by the resettlement agency prior to their arrival. ECAR, on the other hand, allows guests to choose where they want to live. Therefore, do not force any housing option on the case. Provide the guest(s) with up to three different options that align (as much as possible) with their housing desires, and have them make the decision. During this time, show guests how you search for an apartment in the United States, including websites and local resources. Physically tour the housing options with guests if possible, and walk them through the process for applying for an apartment. If they don’t like any of the three, that is fine. However, this is where your role ends, and it is their responsibility to use the tools provided to find the housing they want.
In certain instances, the case might have difficulty finding housing. In such situations, consult with the resettlement agency and the case manager. These organizations often have partnerships with real estate groups and know what housing can be available for your case. It is important to keep in mind the hosted guests’ autonomy and agency. They should not be pressured into making decisions.
Upon completing the housing application and receiving approval, it is time to set up utilities and pay the necessary fees. At Guilford College, we typically fundraise enough money to help pay the hosted guests’ deposit as well as first month’s rent and application fees. We also assist the case in setting up their utilities, including water, gas, electricity, and internet. Afterwards, agree on a moving day and recruit the help of your volunteers.
Moving Day & After
On moving day, be sure to conduct a thorough walkthrough with guests of their apartment (with the landlord/leasing agent if possible) to do a safety check. Go through use of appliances, check that there are working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and check the window/door locks to ensure they’re in good working order. Show guests how to contact their leasing office/landlord if there are any issues, and go over how rent is paid monthly (check, online, cashier’s check, etc).
In the days and weeks after the move, continue to visit the case and see how their life at their new place is going. Do not sever your relationship with them. Rather, continue to visit and assist with long term goals such as acquiring driver’s licenses or GED.
Applying for Permanent Resident Status
Your case must “apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status after they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year.” (https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/refugees). In other words, they are required to obtain a green card. The sooner this can be done, the better.
In order to apply for a green card your case must fill out form I-485. For more information on this process, visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-485.
If you choose to continue to host refugees on your campus, and as your program grows, your campus should consider having a Program Coordinator. This person is the link between the families and the volunteers; they find out what is needed, then reach out to volunteers so that the task may be completed.
Guilford’s Program Coordinator (always a recent alum) is trained by CWS to provide volunteer training directly on campus.
The position of Program Coordinator is especially important since it will turn your chapter into a sustainable program—one that will not gradually dissipate as students graduate. The Program Coordinator will become a significant part of making your hosted guests’ experience the best it can be.
Because ECAR is a nonprofit, paying your Program Coordinator may be unconventional. The position at Guilford, for example, is funded by donations. Make sure to consider how you will compensate your Program Coordinator for their work before asking them to commit to the position.
Requirements to be a volunteer
- We do training with CWS Greensboro to get our volunteers certified and prepared to work with volunteers. Our Program Coordinator is trained by CWS to train volunteers directly.
- Students also receive ESL training for tutoring the family
- In order to keep track of the tasks volunteers are doing, you should create a form to be filled out by volunteers and sent to the Program Coordinator. Your Program Coordinator can then use these forms as case notes, which should be sent to the refugee resettlement agency case manager on a weekly basis. You can see Guilford’s form in the appendix on page 40.
Opportunities for Volunteers
- Tutoring children and teens with homework
- Practicing English with guests
- Helping fill out forms (doctor, dentist, insurance, bills, paperwork)
- Collecting and sorting donations
- Tabling to raise awareness about organization
- Engaging family in the community on and off campus (taking to school sports events, community events, accompanying to stores)
- Driving to appointments & places around town
- Calling offices for appointments, apartment information, etc.
- Moving in/out and setting up the house/apartment
- Help applying for Food Stamps and practice using EBT cards
- Welcoming at the airport
- Public transit orientation (help get bus IDs and how to use)
- Organizing and attending events such as:
- Art show
- Sponsored roller derby bout or other sports event
- Free Market
- A benefit concert
- Collaborative projects, such as work with the Red Sand Project
Another key piece of the Program Coordinator’s position is fundraising. Fundraising provides emergency funds as well as day-to-day and early arrival costs. Those costs include larger expenses such as the first month’s rent or moving deposits, as well as smaller expenses such as groceries upon arrival. During the pandemic, we also provided support for families experiencing financial hardship, often doing so through GoFundMe campaigns specifically for the person in need.
Working with your institution will be important in figuring out fundraising strategies for your program; are there alumni or donor lists that you can write appeals to? Is there a grant you can apply for? Will your institution be able to provide any financial support? How can you get involved in already existing fundraising efforts?
It’s important to acknowledge and thank your donors. We recommend writing monthly thank you letters to any new donors, and annual thank you letters to monthly donors. Letting supporters know that their gifts are crucial to the program and that they are providing much needed assistance helps keep them engaged.
Community Involvement & Resources
Remember that you can be creative in what resources you seek out, and that it does not hurt to simply ask communities and organizations for aid.
- Connecting with a hiring agency locally to help find jobs for the adults
- Talking to the local preschools and daycares about free or low-tuition spots- Guilford’s chapter of ECAR was able to negotiate two tuition free spots at a local Presbyterian Church’s preschool.
- Local food pantries can aid in terms of finding food when there is a scarcity for families. For example, we have a map of resources in Greensboro, made by our program coordinator: https://drive.google.com/a/guilford.edu/open?id=1d1tILVDxDdtzFhIoZ8ToNEQM-i6R2vOj&usp=sharing
- Check with local health departments to see if they have a list of resources of where people can get free meals, free bike helmets, baby supplies, etc.
- Think outside the box. Is there an art studio your case could use? A gym? Library resources and job services? Find out what your case needs and think about who you could partner with to make it possible.
- Consider creating a file folder with resources you will need each time with forms from the DMV, language or cultural guides, informational pamphlets, important phone numbers, etc.
Note on Education Access & Resources for 18+
- Your resettlement agency may already have a connection with a group that aids in school enrollment. If not, they enroll students directly through the school district. If you are hosting a teenager who is 18 or older but interested in attending school, be sure to check out your state’s maximum age limit guidelines for free education, as it’s typically between 19-21. The resettlement agency policy may be to automatically enroll anyone 18+ in college, but if the guest would like to attend high school and is eligible, that should be the priority. You can contact your local school district for information on enrollment.
A strong social media presence can be extremely helpful in getting donations & support for your ECAR program. We often use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to alert our supporters of needs — both material and financial — that the program has, as well as update them on what our program is currently doing. While we use email for our volunteer tasks, social media is a good way to get the word out to a wider audience. We often use programs like Canva in order to make eye-catching posts.
Social media can also be an excellent platform for recognizing the work of extraordinary volunteers. Most of our volunteers are students doing the work in between other responsibilities, and we want to make them feel appreciated.
The ECAR Minor
In the fall of 2017, Guilford College began the Every Campus a Refuge minor through our Principled Problem Solving Experience program. A new minor, Forced Migration and Resettlement Studies, began in Fall 2019. The minors formalize the educational components of the initiative and engages students in disciplinary, interdisciplinary and place-based experiences that facilitate:
1) learning about forced displacement and (im)migration
2) centralizing the voices, agency and perspectives of (im)migrants and forcibly displaced individuals
3) participation in the place-based educational processes of resettlement and community building
4) emphasis on the nature and significance of organizing and advocacy.
In short, the ECAR PPSE minors engage students in learning about the issues of forced displacement, the individuals who experience it, and the methods by which some of its various problems can be addressed.
The various elements of the minor are designed to educate the students on the what/why of forced displacement, (im)migration and refugeeism (the courses they take and the guest lectures they attend); centralize the agency, perspective and individuality of those who experience refugeeism, forced displacement and (im)migration (the courses focused on primary narratives, the ECAR guests they volunteer with, and the conversation partners); how we can collectively address the problems of forced displacement and refugeeism and the resettlement of (im)migrants (courses on organizing, civic engagement and community building as well as training provided by community partner organizations); doing the work of principled problem solving (hosting refugees, assisting them in resettlement, advocacy work and the programmatic ECAR projects).
You can find a folder of syllabi for these and other courses here: Google Drive Folder
Courses required for Guilford’s ECAR Minors:
The two minors require a minimum of 16 credit hours:
I. Required: PPS 150/151: Every Campus A Refuge I
II. Required: PPS 250/251: Every Campus A Refuge II
III. One course focused on understanding the causes for forced displacement and (im)migration
IV. One course focused on the voice, agency and perspectives of (im)migrants and displaced individuals.
V. One course focused on building community, advocacy, and organizing.
In PPS 150/151: Every Campus A Refuge I students will:
a) Receive free training from our community partner organizations and agencies (CWS Greensboro) and New Arrivals Institute.
b) Engage in 10-15 hours of conversational interactions with displaced individuals through NaTakallam
c) Learn about various topics related to refugeeism, forced displacement, im(migration), and resettlement through readings, guest lectures, site visits, documentaries as well as weekly discussion meetings and written reflections.
In PPS 250/251: Every Campus A Refuge II students will:
a) Select/generate an inter/disciplinary advocacy, problem solving or other type of ECAR engagement project to be completed by the end of the semester and which they can present at the Guilford Undergraduate Symposium or elsewhere and on which future students can build.
b) Volunteer for 40 hours for the semester with the ECAR families or other CWS clients. This includes participation in the various aspects of hosting the family and implementation of resettlement tasks.
c) Learn about various topics related to refugeeism, forced displacement, im(migration), and resettlement through readings, guest lectures, site visits, documentaries as well as weekly discussion meetings and written reflections.
Past ECAR Minor Projects
- Booklet with information for pregnant people & mothers; in multiple languages and included pictures.
- ECAR Camp – week-long summer program for children who have been hosted through ECAR
- Narratives – Stories told about the history & practices of each chapter
- Fundraisers (including silent auction)
- ESL Toolkit
- Movie night for children
- Know-Your-Rights Campaign
We recognize that we do not have every answer or resource that you may need available. Below, we’ve highlighted some resources that you may find useful. We recommend checking out Switchboard TA, a website run by the IRC and partners. It is frequently updated with webinars, resources, research, and more. If you have recommendations to add to this list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tarjimly, a free live-interpretation app
- Mobile App Translation & Interpretation Guide by Switchboard
- Cultural Validation & Translation Toolkit by IRC
- Housing Selection 101 from Switchboard
- Housing Collaborative (formerly SocialServe)
- Reducing Burnout and Vicarious Trauma Among Refugee Service Providers
- Mental Health First Aid (variety of resources)
- Mental Health Toolkit for Refugees and Refugee Claimants
- Self-care and a Healthy Workplace in the Settlement and Integration Sector
Career Discernment and Planning
- Recognition and Evaluation of Education Obtained Abroad
- English Language Proficiency Tests:
- Routes for Professional Advancement
American Association of Colleges and Universities
United Nations Together Campaign
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Every Campus A Refuge
General ECAR information video
Diya Abdo’s TED Talk, “Revisioning the University Campus”
Quick Links to Document Resources
- Program Coordinator Sample Documents – Google Drive Folder
- Sample Public Safety Information Document
- Sample Welcome Letter for Refugee Guests
- Sample Donation Request Letter
- Sample Lease (Basic)
- Sample Volunteer Application
- Sample Volunteer Application on Google Forms
- Sample Current Volunteer Opportunities Document
- Syllabi for ECAR Courses – Google Drive Folder
Sample Instructions for Accepting In-Kind Donations
Sample In-Kind Donation Form
Sample Donation Request
The world is currently witnessing the largest refugee crisis since WWII. Millions of refugees are seeking resettlement in countries across the globe, desperately searching for safety and escape from their war-torn and uninhabitable homelands. These refugees need your help now more than ever! Will you answer their plight with your support?
Join with Every Campus a Refuge (everycampusarefuge.org), a volunteer organization based on the campus of Guilford College, in helping to resettle refugee families. In helping to welcome them into the USA and showing them they are valued.
Your help can come in a number of ways: volunteering your time, volunteering your unused, gently used, or donated goods; and yes, volunteering to donate financial support. Every single dollar can go a long way in serving the needs of our families:
- $5 can buy simple ingredients, like cassava flour, to make bread
- $10 can buy more expensive ingredients, like chicken or fish, for a family meal
- $25 can buy a box of diapers
- $50 can buy a family groceries for a few days
- $100 can buy one month’s utility bill
- $500 can buy a family their rent deposit
- $1000 can buy their apartment’s rent, utilities, groceries, and more
Every donation makes an impact in our refugee families lives, and sends them the clear message that we care about them and that our community stands up for, and believes in, love and kindness!
Guilford College students and clubs that wish to support ECAR are also encouraged to purchase the following useful items and deliver them to Archdale 114:
- Cassava flour
- Canned tomatoes
On behalf of the refugee families, thank you for your generosity! Thank you for your display of kindness and love during these trying times. Our community is only as strong and loving as its members show each other to be – your actions matter and have an impact!
For more details about ECAR, and to donate online, visit: EVERYCAMPUSAREFUGE.ORG or
Sample Information Sheet for Public Safety (adjusted based on country of origin and culture of hosted guests)
Thank you so very much for your assistance with this special project. To find out more about it and the ways in which Guilford College is leading the way in innovatively addressing the refugee crisis, please visit our website at www.everycampusarefuge.net
CONFIDENTIALITY – All information regarding the history, location and safety of our guests is to remain confidential. Their identity, presence or location on campus must not be shared with any staff, faculty or students or any non-Guilford individuals. We are trying to avoid having the media know who and where these newcomers are.
GUEST INFORMATION – We will be hosting a Syrian family composed of a father, mother and three sons aged 3, 9, and 11. They are coming from Turkey. They speak Arabic. It is unknown how much English they have. If you ever need an interpreter, please call Walid Mosarsaa at 999-999-9999, or Diya Abdo on her cell at 999-999-9999 at any time.
GUEST LOCATION – Our guest will be residing in XXXXXXXXXXXXXX. They will be on campus beginning Thursday, March 1, 2016 until the end of the semester and maybe longer. At that point, ECAR will help find the family alternative housing.
QUESTIONS? – Please contact Dean of Students (9999) or Diya Abdo (999-999-9999)
CONTACT – Our guests have been directed to call the public safety officer on call for any non-life threatening emergencies and for any issues with the apartment that might occur on weekends and outside of regular business hours.
CULTURAL NORMS – To help in cross-cultural communication, below are some Syrian cultural norms that our guests may take part in. Attached are further resources to facilitate constructive communication with our guests.
Men greeting Men – Men shake hands when greeting one another in formal settings. Good friends and family usually kiss once on each cheek in more informal settings.
Women greeting Women – Same as men, but the kiss on the cheek is much more
Greetings between Men and Women – Physical contact between unrelated men and women is very uncommon and might be offensive to religious people. A handshake is the norm in more secular circles; cheek kissing is usually unacceptable. It is best to allow the woman to extend her hand first. If the hand is not extended, then a slight nod while placing your hand on your chest is the polite for men to do. 
Syrian society is divided into two broad groups, secular and religious (conservative), with the two main groups having smaller subdivisions based on wealth. Therefore you find varying degrees of tolerance/intolerance to certain subjects inside the same group. These two groups are not evenly spread throughout the country (in either metropolitan or rural areas).
When talking about specific social issues, it is important to point out what is acceptable to each group. While these groups have a broad range of things in common, big differences can be found when discussing subjects such as women’s rights, dress code, sexuality, politics and religion. In the religious group, a woman’s place is at home, and her dress is loose and covering. In the secular group, there are few restrictions on what a woman can do.
We do not know what the family’s religious background is. They could be Christian or Muslim.
For more information, please visit http://www.culturalorientation.net/
Sample Volunteer Form
Please fill out this form after each volunteer activity you independently (without Diya or Program Coordinator present) do for ECAR to help us keep track of visits, appointments, reimbursements, etc.
Email address *_________________
Your Name: *_________________
Date Task Performed: *_________________
# Hours Task Required *_________________
Task Type *
- Medical/Doctor's Appointment
- Translation Services
- Donation Retrieval
- Department of Social Services
- Department of Human Services
- Other: ________________
ECAR Family Volunteering With * _________________ (usually a drop-down menu)
Description of Task (location, purpose, etc.) *
Notes from Appointment (if any)
Follow-up Needed? (details) _________________
Do you need a reimbursement? *
- Yes, gas reimbursement (no receipt required)
- Yes, reimbursement other than gas (upload receipt below)
- No, I don't need any reimbursement
# of miles driven (even if not being reimbursed) * _________________
Upload receipt (if need non-gas reimbursement)
Sample Welcome Letter
This letter is translated into the language spoken by the hosted guests:
Welcome to Guilford College.
We are honored to have you as our guests.
My name is Diya Abdo. I am a professor here and the founder of Every Campus A Refuge (www.everycampusarefuge.net). You can reach me any time on my cell number at 999-999-9999.
Please find attached your lease for this residence. Your rent and utilities will be paid by Guilford College. The lease details the other non-monetary responsibilities of your tenancy. If these are ok with you, I will go with you in a few days to the office here where you can sign the lease.
Please make yourself at home and comfortable.
For any life-threatening emergencies, please dial 911
For any non life-threatening emergencies, please dial 999-999-9999. This is the number to the Guilford College Public Safety Officer on duty.
If you need anything fixed in the house during the hours of 9-5, please call our Facilities Director at 999-999-9999. If you cannot reach her, then please call the Public Safety Officer on duty.
If you need anything fixed in the house before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. or on the weekends, please call the Public Safety Officer on duty.
All my best,
CWS Home Supply List
- Bed frame (1 per bed)
- Mattress and Box Spring (1 per bed)
- Bed Sheets (1 set per bed)
- Blanket (1 per person)
- Pillow and Pillowcase (1 per person)
- Dresser/Shelves (per room)
- Kitchen Table
- Kitchen Chair (1 per person)
- Coffee Table/End Table
- Alarm Clock (per bedroom)
- Paper and Pen (per person)
- Lamp/Light Source (1 per room)
- Frying Pan
- Baking Dish
- Mixing/Serving Bowls
- Wooden Spoon
- Big Knife
- Serving Utensils
- Can Opener
- Spoon (1 per person)
- Fork (1 per person)
- Knife (1 per person)
- Plate (1 per person)
- Bowl (1 per person)
- Cup (1 per person)
- Dish soap
- Bathroom Cleanser
- Kitchen Cleanser
- Paper Towels
- Laundry Detergent
- Waste Baskets
- Mop/Broom and Dust Pan
- Box of Trash Bags
- Toilet Paper
- Toothbrush (1 per person)
- Bath Towel (1 per person)
- Feminine Hygiene (Pads)
- Shaving Foam
Memorandum of Understanding
Below is an example of an MOU between an ECAR campus and a partner resettlement agency. Note that yours may look different based on what responsibilities you each agree to, as well as what resources you’re able to provide on your campus..
Memorandum of Understanding
Every Campus A Refuge at [Your Institution]
[Your Partner Resettlement Agency]
This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a partnership between Every Campus A Refuge at [Your Institution] and [Your Partner Resettlement Agency]. Together, [Your Institution] and [Agency] enter into this Memorandum of Understanding to mutually promote an effective partnership in serving recently arrived refugees on [Your Institution]’s campus.
The organizations agree to the following tasks for this MOU:
[Your Institution] will:
● Provide appropriate and safe, furnished housing on [Your Institution]’s campus.
● Ensure continued maintenance of the house and its utilities/amenities throughout the family’s stay.
● Prepare the house according to [Agency]’s home supply list.
● Provide a culturally appropriate hot meal upon arrival.
● Provide utilities, including electricity, water, and Wi-Fi (available on campus if not the ECAR at [Your Institution]-designated house).
● Inform guests of campus resources & provide necessary access as requested/needed (e.g. cafeteria, library, gym, departmental facilities, clubs and organizations etc.).
● Appropriately train & background check volunteers to aid in carrying out tasks.
● Fill out and submit case notes for all tasks completed by Program Coordinator & volunteers.
● Aid in resettling family off-campus, providing three housing options that fit the guests’ preferences as closely as possible.
● Help the family move to their off-campus housing.
● Protect privacy and confidentiality of family’s location and information, ensuring that it will only be shared with volunteers and College personnel on a need-to-know basis.
● Not receive any funds (R&P or otherwise) from [Agency] for carrying out these tasks.
● Provide [Agency] with cash match/in-kind documentation (volunteer time, rent, utilities, and other expenses incurred by your institution on behalf of the family).
[Resettlement Agency] will:
● Orient the campus partner to the partnership and its nature — what to expect, benefits, etc.
● Provide as much notice as possible to [your institution] before the family arrives.
● Identify and connect [Agency] point persons (case managers and then other [Agency] personnel) with ECAR at [Your Institution] staff throughout the guests’ stay.
● Provide necessary case information in preparation for new arrivals (including but not limited to case size, composition, ages, country of origin, language, arrival date and time).
● Provide children’s car seats, phones, mattresses, box springs, and bed frames for hosted guests.
● [Agency] Case Manager will complete home safety evaluation and home supply checklist prior to clients’ arrival.
● Communicate regularly with ECAR at [Your Institution] Program Coordinator to coordinate services, assess clients’ well-being, and provide case updates as needed (such as client appointments, job opportunities and job placements, schedules, etc.) throughout the guests’ stay.
● Give funds (R&P or otherwise) directly to, or on behalf of, clients.
● Invite the ECAR at [Your Institution] representative to participate in family-specific service planning.
Both ECAR at [Your Institution] and [Agency] will:
● Be present for airport arrival & provide transportation back to ECAR at [Your Institution] house
● Provide tour of home upon arrival, including information on safe use of utilities
● Work on arrival goals set by the guests
● Check in regularly with guests during their stay on campus.
● [Agency] and ECAR at [Your Institution] will check in with each other first and agree on responses to situations that might arise, presenting a united front, whether related to employment situations, family requests or needs, or any other circumstance involving guests.
The term of this MOU is for a period of five years from the effective date of this agreement and may be extended upon written mutual agreement. It shall be reviewed annually to ensure that it is fulfilling its purpose and to make any necessary revisions. This document may be amended at any time upon agreement of both parties. The signature below establishes that the organizations agree to fulfill their tasks for this partnership to the best of their abilities.
Every Campus A Refuge at [Your Institution]:
__________________________________________ __________________ _____________
Representative Name Title Date
[Partner Refugee Resettlement Agency]:
__________________________________________ __________________ _____________
Representative Name Title Date