In response to Pope Francis’ call on every European parish to host one refugee family, Every Campus A Refuge was founded at Guilford College by Dr. Diya Abdo in September of 2015 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 idea is that university and college campuses have everything necessary – housing, food, care, skills – to take in refugees and support them as they begin their lives in their new homes.
Since January of 2016, Guilford College, a very small liberal arts college in North Carolina, partnered with one of Greensboro’s local refugee resettlement agencies (CWS Greensboro) to host 27refugees (16 of them children between the ages of 10 months and 17 years) in Guilford College campus houses and apartments.
The already-hosted families include 2 Syrian families that have successfully settled in Greensboro. The campus is currently hosting an 11-member family and a 5-member family – a total of 16 refugees, 11 of them children.
Under this program, each refugee family is temporarily housed until they are able to resettle successfully in Greensboro. They are provided with free rent, utilities, Wi-Fi, use of college facilities and resources, as well as a large community of support in the form of the college campus and its friends. The daily work of hosting and assisting in resettlement is done by trained Guilford community volunteers: Guilford students, alumni, faculty, administrators and staff; their spouses; faculty, students, and staff from nearby Bennett College; local faith communities; and Guilford friends.
All of the volunteers utilize their personal skills towards the common goal of hosting and assisting refugees. Students are also able to contribute to the effort by drawing on their disciplinary training to research, write, create artwork and craft podcasts for the initiative’s public fora and to design and implement assessment instruments to evaluate the project’s work.
Participating individuals receive a powerful experiential education on pressing global issues (the refugee crisis and forced displacement) and local concerns (immigrant and refugee life in Greensboro) all while and because of actively engaging in real-world principled problem-solving. This place-based educational experience, connected as it is to real rather than theoretical people, has transformed volunteers’ lives and, through their efforts, positively impacted the refugees’ lives in Greensboro.
By hosting refugees and teaching students about the challenges that many people face across the globe, students feel like part of a movement that really makes a difference in the world. Very importantly, this “radical hospitality” makes a clear statement about the institution’s commitment to compassion, empathy, and awareness and helps shape more positive public narratives and community discourses around refugees and immigrants, something which is especially pertinent and necessary now more than ever.
Most recently, ECAR created the Every Campus A Refuge 16 credit minor which pilots at Guilford College in the Fall of 2107. In this Principled Problem Solving Experience minor students will learn about what creates refugees, centralize refugee voices and experiences, train in how to organize around and advocate for refugee issues, create and implement projects that assist refugees, and work with refugees hosted by Every Campus a Refuge.
Every Campus A Refuge is now spreading, with campuses large and small heeding the call and actively hosting refugees (including Lafayette College, Wake Forest University, Agnes Scott College, Rollins College among others) and more mobilizing to do so (including Princeton, Brandeis, Georgetown etc.). The initiative has been recognized at the White House and the Sixth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Gathering. It has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered with Ari Shapiro and WUNC’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio, and in The Washington Post and the State Department Toolkit on how universities can help refugees. Most recently, Every Campus A Refuge won the Gulf South Summit’s 2017 Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration in Higher Education Award.