Is my school already interested in ECAR? Maybe! We've been contacted by many schools. Find out hereif your school is one of them. If it is, email us so that we can put you in touch with our contact there. If it's not, this is a great opportunity for you to make your campus a refuge.
I want our campus to become a refuge. Where do I start? If you're the pioneer for ECAR on your campus, then the first thing to do would be to get your top administration, especially your President, on board. Think about the best way to secure a "Yes." A face-to-face meeting; a letter signed by like-minded faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors (or any combination of these); a petition; talking to VPs first; putting together a proposal before any of these?
My campus administration is on board. What next? Contact your local refugee resettlement agency. Find it here. Let them know you'd like to help them resettle a refugee family and find out what kind of assistance they would need and like. It might be just housing or they might want you to do more. If it's more, ask for the list of tasks that need to be accomplished for a family before, during and after the Reception and Placement period. Find examples here from Pennsylvania and North Carolina (pages 1 and 2).
We don't really have any appropriate on-campus housing. Does this mean we can't be a refuge? No, it doesn't! ECAR is a flexible initiative. Its goal is to help the resettlement agency do their exhausting and expensive work in welcoming and resettling refugees. Your campus can be involved to the best of its abilities and in a way that fits its capacities.This might mean doing just a few items on the resettlement list. However, housing is a big piece of the need. Since refugees are given a small one-time stipend that goes mostly to rent and utilities, providing housing for the Reception and Placement period will help the family save that money for their rent when this period ends and gives them some time to rest, adjust, better learn the area and look for employment and permanent housing in their preferred location. If you don't have on-campus housing, your campus can pay for their rent and utilities in an apartment complex or house near campus. You can crowdfund for that. And don't underestimate an available dorm room! Single or young couple refugees would LOVE to stay in a dorm on a college or university campus. Tell your agency what you have available and let them tell you what's appropriate or not.
Resettling a refugee family on our campus seems like daunting work. How do I make it happen? Of course it is! But remember that you're not in this alone. Your campus is a city of hundreds of human and material resources. Most importantly, you are PARTNERING with your local refugee resettlement agency which is still responsible for these tasks and services (job searching, ESL training, cultural orientation) which are readily available to the refugee family. But let's say you want to do more than housing, ECAR is very much all about re-imagining the campus community as a city where such communal work is possible, indeed desirable.
How do I marshal the resources available on our campus to resettle the refugee family? It has helped Guilford to find an institutional home for the initiative -- an office, department or program where this kind of community engaged work is done. It might be the Bonner Center, or a Center for Principled Problem Solving, or the Conflict Resolution Center, or a Service Learning Program, or Community Engaged Learning. Whatever it's called, your school has it. Talk to them to see if they would adopt the initiative. They might take it all off of your hands or they might offer to work with you to make it happen. At Guilford, the Center for Principled Problem Solving agreed to house the initiative and to provide administrative support for the important logistical and preparatory work, including funds to support student workers who have been tasked with figuring out who on campus can provide what service on the agency's list and requesting it of them. What we can't do, the agency will. For example, your Career Center can be requested to assist the family in job searches. Your International Student Office can be tasked with taking the family to get their Social Security numbers and fill out other governmental forms. Student volunteers can be tasked with airport pick-up, babysitting, tutoring children. The Cafeteria might be asked to provide a meal plan or a local market identified for a credit-line for shopping. If you can't get student workers, then maybe you can create a committee. You get the idea! Use your imagination to re-imagine your campus as a city!
How do I get my campus and local community invested? How do I get them on board and prepared? Excellent question! Educate the community -- on campus and locally. This education is at the core of what your campus does anyway. Have panels on the refugee crisis and refugee resettlement, bring in speakers (with funding from the appropriate programs on campus), have forums and conversations with students, faculty and staff. Engage the student governments, clubs, academic departments and local organizations (highschools, houses of worship, cooperatives, alumni) . Let them figure out and decide what role they want to play. This is precisely the kind of interdisciplinary and communal engagement that makes ECAR not just radically hospitable, but radically educational! In this model, everybody learns and everybody "wins" -- your campus community, the refugee family, and your local community. This allows you to bring in and sustain the real world in the proverbial campus bubble. Before the family arrives, organize workshops and training on cultural sensitivity and work on ways to create a welcoming and knowledgeable community. Again, this is important educational work that is at the core of what colleges and universities do. At this time of incredible Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism, there is no better time for campuses to intervene directly in the discourse around refugees, immigrants and "others" so that they can shift it from fear to fact, from hatred to empathy, from ignorance to awareness.
There are no Syrian refugees coming to our area. What does this mean for our campus initiative? It means you can and should think about this with any refugees! The Syrian refugee crisis is especially brutal, but refugees are arriving into your city from everywhere in the world, and they are similarly in need of what ECaR can offer. There are refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Colombia and many other countries.
How can we help to the refugee family after the Reception and Placement period? Hopefully, your campus family will maintain connections with the refugee family as they resettle in your city. This is a beautiful way to build strong and lasting connections in the local community. You can assist the refugee family in finding jobs and permanent housing. Perhaps your campus connections can negotiate a better rental rate for them. Perhaps their college-aged children can go to your school. There are many ways you can continue to be in each other's lives in ways powerful and meaningful for everybody involved.
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