18 September 2018

Guilford College campus welcomes and supports refugees creating long-lasting ties

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), as part of its continuous outreach efforts about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), shares this story related to Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, submitted by Guilford College, a UNAI member institution located in the United States. 

18 September 2018 - Guilford College (United States), a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), established the Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR) programme, led by Diya Abdo, associate professor. ECAR is based on the fact that campuses are equipped with all the necessary resources to host refugees and support them in their resettlement. During the initial period, refugees are unsure of their new home, might not speak the language and are not yet oriented to the place’s geography and norms. 

ECAR stewards the college’s resources to provide on-campus support for those forcibly displaced. In doing so, higher education can increase the number of successfully resettled refugees and support resettlement agencies. Moreover, it can counteract xenophobic narratives. By committing institutional resources to welcoming and supporting refugees, institutions of higher education can send a powerful message to their communities that there is indeed nothing to fear and everything to gain from welcoming refugees. 

Through ECAR, Guilford College partnered with the refugee resettlement agency Church World Service to support the agency’s needs and standards. Since 2015, Guilford College has hosted forty-two refugees (more than half of them children) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Syria and Uganda. Each family stayed on Guilford College campus in a furnished house or apartment (free rent and utilities) for up to five months. By the end of their stay, they have found employment and are able to successfully resettle. 

The hosted guests also enjoy free use of many other campus facilities and utilities as well as support from 100+ trained Guilford College and community volunteers. Initial findings show that the programme provides very valuable material, cultural, and social support for newly arrived refugees, who are able to adjust more quickly and create powerful and long-lasting ties with a campus community that has the capacity to support and engage them. In turn, Guilford Colllege campus and wider community have been enriched. 

By using their skills towards the goal of supporting the hosted refugees, volunteers receive a experiential education on forced displacement as well as immigrant and refugee life. This component has been institutionalized in a Refugee Studies minor which engages students in disciplinary, inter/multidisciplinary, and experiential learning around these issues. In the selection of courses the students take, they learn about forced displacement; centralize the voices and perspectives of displaced individuals; learn how to organize, advocate and build community; and participate in hosting refugees.

To learn more about the programme, please see ECAR’s website.