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 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 is a first-year at Guilford College and volunteers by tabling, donation sorting, and checking on families.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 email@example.com. (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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Diya Abdo and Program Coordinator Kathleen Herbst represented Every Campus a Refuge at the 20th Anniversary National Gathering of the Imagining America Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The gathering took place on October 18th at the University of New Mexico. The theme of the conference was “Mighty Dreams: Designing and Fostering Belonging in ‘America’.”
Dr. Abdo and Herbst presented on how to implement ECAR on private versus public campuses, as well as how students can engage with refugee communities in their area without necessarily hosting families on their campuses.
“At a private college, we have a little bit more freedom than public universities may have. At public universities, they may have to host off but near campus or volunteer with local refugee communities.” Herbst said.
They helped attendees brainstorm ways they can start an ECAR chapter that is personalized for their campus or just support their local refugee communities. The primary goal of ECAR is to create a softer landing for refugees so they can strongly re-establish themselves in their new homes. Some things to consider before implementing an ECAR chapter is who in your community can provide what resources as well as looking into local resettlement agencies.
The conference featured many local organizations in New Mexico, as well as those from further away. Herbst was particularly struck by filmmaker Michelle Angela Ortiz’s documentary “Las Madres de Berks.” The documentary was about Berks family detention center and the oppression and abuse that resides in its walls.
“That was something that really reminded me of the way in which ECAR can also be every campus a sanctuary; we need to fight against family detention centers as well.” Herbst said.
Ortiz presented her documentary over Skype and talked about hands-on activism. She advised finding and protesting local detention centers as well as mobilizing art to spread awareness. Herbst was moved by her presentation and believed that this creative problem-solving method could be applied to ECAR as well.
“We should be finding ways in which we can use our own strengths to support change.” Herbst said.
ECAR is in itself a hands-on organization that implores others to assist refugees in their communities. Our volunteers range from driven artists to passionate fundraisers and those with a variety of strengths. What skills do you have? How can we hone our own skills and resources to create change and support refugees?
From August 26th to the 28th, 2019, Guilford College student Angela Morrow — who is an ECAR minor — represented Every Campus a Refuge at the 68th United Nations Civil City Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference centered around “building inclusive and sustainable cities and communities.” Morrow presented on the practices of ECAR and highlighted ways other colleges and universities could implement their own chapter.
“I feel like it is a wonderful way to get the word out to many other colleges or universities that might not have heard about ECAR and to show them that they too can make a difference. There were other organizations that were also interested in learning more about ECAR and how they can become involved. It is a wonderful way to find new partners to collaborate and network with to allow ECAR to grow and become stronger,” Morrow said.
The conference focused on Sustainable Development Goal 11, which was to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030.” (source) Morrow noted that while explaining the ways in which ECAR is sustainable, she was able to see sustainability in a new light.
“I had not really thought in depth about the sustainable aspects of ECAR as well as how we reuse and share resources to make the ECAR program a success until going to present for this conference,” she said.
Universities produce far more than what their students, staff, and faculty need in terms of food, shelter, and other resources. Resources that may have otherwise been wasted or remained unused are given to refugees who are settling into their new lives. Federal work-study is another collegiate resource that can allow volunteers to be paid for their work with ECAR.
Morrow presented on ECAR as a part of De Montfort University’s (DMU) panel. Guilford College and De Montfort are partners in the United Nations Together Campaign. Guilford’s ECAR program was recommended by the United Nation’s Department of Public Information and was invited by DMU to the United Nations Together Campaign Summit.
The international event typically attracts over 3,000 participants who represent over 700 organizations from over 100 different countries. Representatives from organizations come together to workshop and share the best practices for sustainability and inclusivity.
Dr. Diya Abdo received the 2019 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award from Campus Compact for her work with Every Campus a Refuge. Campus Compact is “a national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education.” They value civic engagement, democracy, and community development, and push students and faculty to become responsible and ethical citizens.
The Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award has been presented annually since 1995. The award recognizes “senior faculty for exemplary engaged scholarship, including leadership in advancing students’ civic learning, conducting community-based research, fostering reciprocal community partnerships, building institutional commitments to service-learning and civic engagement, and other means of enhancing higher education’s contributions to the public good.”
Every Campus a Refuge mobilizes resources on college campuses to support refugees. So far, the Guilford College chapter of ECAR has hosted 53 refugees. Additionally, ECAR engages students, faculty, and staff in curricular and co-curricular experiences and conversations around forced migration, displacement, and resettlement. With a wide range of families who have since resettled in Greensboro as well as 125+ volunteers, ECAR tends to the Guilford College community as well as that of Greensboro. Other universities all over the Eastern United States have adopted and adapted the ECAR model to assist refugees in their communities as well.
Nominated by the Director of Principled Problem Solving and Excellence in Teaching, Dr. Mark Justad and Guilford College President Jane Fernandes, Dr. Diya Abdo is the very first North Carolina-based scholar to receive the award. She will be honored at the Impact Awards Celebration in Seattle, WA in March 2020.