Students propose college host refugee families

The Climate Action Plan 2.0 outlines projects to be completed for Lafayette to obtain carbon neutrality by 2035. (Lauren Fox ’19)

Before they were an official student club, members of Refugee Action submitted a proposal to the college asking that Lafayette offer space to host refugee families in the Lehigh Valley.

In a meeting with student government Wednesday night, six members successfully petitioned to become a club. During their presentation they talked about how they would work with the college to become a home for refugees.

“So the goal is that the college would help provide housing to a refugee family while they transitioned over a three to six month period into the United States,” member Erik Laucks ’20 said.

If this were to occur, the club and the college would be working with Bethany Christian Services, a Bethlehem-based organization focused on child and family services for refugees.

According to member Anna Nollan ’20, Bethany Christian Services would do all the programming and orientation with the refugees.

“We don’t have to do anything, we don’t have to be in contact with them, we don’t have to find anybody,” Nollan said. “They do all that, they provide the documentation and providing the community for them to come into.”

Laucks said that after Bethany Christian Services finds and brings refugees here, students could volunteer with the families to help teach English, cultural orientation, getting them to doctor’s appointments and getting them on their feet in general.

The Refugee Action club aims to do more than promote turning campus into a refuge. Before the club was made official Wednesday night, members have been collecting money in Farinon, helping put students in touch with local representatives and hosting a showing of “After Spring,” a film on a refugee camp in Jordan.

While collecting offhand donations during lunch in Farinon, the club raised close to $250, which, according to Laucks, will go toward supplies for refugees resettling in the Lehigh Valley.

Members got the idea for hosting refugees from Every Campus a Refuge, an initiative first pioneered at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. It called on colleges and universities to host one refugee family on their campus. Guilford English professor Diya Abdo, founder of the organization, came to Lafayette on April 7 to give a presentation about ECAR.

Club members said that during her visit they talked to Abdo and learned a lot from her about the process of hosting refugees on a college campus.

Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio said that the college is looking at the proposal. Diorio met with students before the Abdo’s presentation last week, and no decisions have been made yet.

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