In Arabic, the word “campus” can be translated to “sanctuary.” Established in 2015, Every Campus a Refuge works to provide safety for refugees. On Aug. 25, about 100 students and staff members flocked to College Center 220 to listen to Diya Abdo, an award-winning author, professor and founder of the program.
“Students play the biggest role in ECAR,” Abdo said, “They are the ones who can push for implementation of ECAR, as well as the ones who will do much of the heavy lifting, in terms of hosting and volunteering; and learning about forced displacement and resettlement once it is implemented.”
As the world experiences its highest number of refugees since World War II, Abdo wanted a way to help. Inspired by Pope Francis’s call on European Catholic monasteries, parishes and sanctuaries to take in one refugee family, Abdo and Guilford College of Greensboro, North Carolina proposed Every Campus a Refuge, which asks colleges and universities around the world to host one refugee family on their campuses and help them with resettlement.
College campuses often have housing in dorms, health clinics, social events and cafeterias that can be used to aid others. When refugees come in, a resettlement agency finds them appropriate housing and furniture. They receive a stipend of $900 per person to find a place to live, find transportation and pay for food.
With the help of a campus, refugees would have those basic necessities for 90 days until they become self-sufficient. That way, they can focus on adapting psychologically and culturally. Members of ECAR aim to assist in their goals, not accomplish them, displaying the importance of respecting their rights.
All clients are given the choice upon arrival to become part of the program while keeping their identities, nationality and location anonymous. However, aiding resettlement does not stop at campus borders. It’s important for the outside community to become involved as well.
Volunteers of ECAR participate in four group training sessions on campus. Currently, there are 55 trained direct volunteers who signed confidentiality agreements and cleared their background checks. Direct volunteers perform tasks such as setting up houses, airport welcoming, apartment transportation, collecting donations and raising funds, sharing meals and grocery shopping.
There are requirements that need to be fulfilled listed on Every Campus a Refuge’s website before housing. The first step is to have the president of the college involved as well as a local refugee resettlement agency. Currently, 37 colleges are interested in becoming a refuge, including NCC.
Abdo left the audience of NCC with a life lesson. Even if there is a big problem that is difficult to immediately solve, you can still solve a smaller one.