“Every Campus a Refuge” is a flexible initiative. Your institution can adapt the basic goal of housing (for 90 days) and assisting in the resettlement of a refugee family to your campus capabilities. In short, your campus can do as much as it can. This is possible because this goal is carried out in partnership with your local refugee resettlement agency. They are still responsible for the refugee family’s resettlement and will provide the necessary services for resettlement even while the family is on your campus.
Below, you will find information on how and what Guilford College is doing to carry out this initiative. We hope these will provide general tips and ideas to encourage your campus to become a refuge.
Your campus can do it!
EDUCATING OUR CAMPUS AND LOCAL COMMUNITY
However, by engaging students in Every Campus a Refuge, we can teach our students skills in their discipline as well as assist refugees more broadly and in more long-term ways through a place-based education model. For example, at Guilford, English students are:
- Researching the refugee crisis and the resettlement process and creating web-content. This will hone students’ research skills as well as the skill of writing for public audiences.
Other students are:
- Working on the logistics of the effort as well as the planning of events and resettlement tasks.
But more concretely, it would make sense to have students, whether they are directly assisting the family or not:
- Research the resettlement process in the area so as to better understand and change or improve it.
- Study health care needs or affordable housing issues so as to better understand and improve these.
Students can do this as part of an independent study or as part of existing courses that are related to issues of:
- public policy,
- refugee conditions,
- health care, etc.
In this way, students can learn about the refugee and resettlement process while the campus assists the family without taxing or exploiting the family. This is a great opportunity for a campus to do several things: 1) Materially and directly assist a family in resettlement.
2) Educate the community on refugee and immigrant issues and create opportunities for community bonding and collaboration.
3) Students learn about the ways in which resettlement happens in their city and the possible challenges and obstacles that newcomers (refugees and immigrants) face and explore principled ways of solving such problems.
This is just a very basic idea of how such an initiative can allow for a deep and principled education to happen on and off campus. Every institution can adapt this to its own vision, needs and resources and in a way mindful of the family’s dignity and individual needs.
GETTING THE INITIATIVE IN PLACE
We then contacted our local refugee resettlement agency (find yours here) to let them know that we would like to offer housing to a refugee family and assist the agency with the work of resettlement. The agencies were happy to work with us and gladly accepted our offer of housing. This particular piece is an essential need and an ever increasing challenge and was especially welcomed by the agencies.
From our agency, we received a list of what has to be done for a refugee family before, during and after their arrival. This list includes all the necessary tasks (from setting up a house, to airport pick up, to assisting in employment and everything in-between). It is important to remember that your campus can choose which of these tasks it would like to take on and which it would like to keep to the resettlement agency to do.
Once we established that we would be helping our local refugee resettlement agency, we reached out to our campus engaged learning office, The Center for Principled Problem Solving. Most universities and colleges have similar programs, offices or departments. These are the offices which engage in service learning, community engagement, volunteering, etc. They were happy to support and house the initiative. This meant that the initiative could have an institutional home and the necessary support (financial and otherwise). This office can also help you connect with local community partners such are your local refugee resettlement agency since they have established relationships with them. Your institutional home might be the President’s office or something else.
Because of the support, we were able to create a task force which included student workers. This small group will work to assign (through requests) the various tasks on the list which we decide to take on. These can be requested and assigned to the appropriate departments (for example, your campus might have an International Student Office that can take family members to get their Social Security numbers and fill out other similar forms) or to individuals in a pool of volunteers (who can babysit, drive a family member to an appointment, help with grocery shopping). The names of the volunteers (students, faculty, staff, and local community members) is logged into a google doc and is updated regularly (a task which can also be assigned to a student worker). The pool has been growing steadily due to all of the educational events and meetings we’ve held on campus. We hope that by the time our family arrives, we will have a person or a department designated for each of the tasks we decide to take on.
This has been our process, but your campus can do it differently. Your institution might decide to create an ad hoc or steering committee which is tasked with organizing the logistics of the effort. We have found that having funds for student workers really helped.
Even if you cannot offer on-campus housing, your campus can offer to pay for the family’s rent for those 90 days in an apartment off-campus. You can crowdfund or draw on community generosity for this focused effort.
Remember, if all you can take on is housing for 90 days, this is still a huge help to your local agency. If you can help the family find permanent housing and negotiate for them affordable rent at the end of the 90 days, you will have contributed significantly to their adjustment and resettlement for they will not need to spend their one-time stipend on rent and utilities and they can have the time to decide where they would like to live more permanently (which ideally would be closer to their jobs).
Find out here what we hope to achieve when our family arrives on campus.
RIGHT BEFORE THE FAMILY ARRIVES
Once the family arrives, they will have access to all of the refugee resettlement agency’s services such as ESL tutoring, cultural orientation, and job searches. However, it is an incredible opportunity for our campus to be involved in this kind of work with the family. For example, our Career Center can assist them with job hunting, the International Student office can assist the family with governmental paperwork, forms and obtaining social security numbers, family members can audit classes, students can help family members with tutoring or the children with their studies, our student clubs can employ their passions and focus to serve or engage the family, and campus members who speak the refugee family’s native language can act as cultural brokers and assist the family with navigating the process of adjustment to living in their new home. At Guilford College, we are especially lucky to have one of the best and most sustainable farms in the U.S. This will allows us to provide the family with fresh produce.
During their 90 days, we will help the family find suitable and affordable housing into which we will help them move at the end of the 90 days period. The family is required to become self-sufficient by the federal government at the end of this Reception and Placement period. However, we will work diligently to maintain connections with them even as they physically move off of our campus.