By: Angela Azar || Contributing Writer
Inspired by Dr. Diya Abdo’s Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), F&M Action for Refugee Resettlement (FARR) began at F&M to encourage learning about the forced migration crisis, but also to mobilize the community in assisting Lancaster in its pivotal role in resettlement. Fostering a very diverse community, Lancaster resettles more refugees per capita than any other city in the nation, thus dubbing it the “refugee capital” of the United States. To celebrate this title, but also further F&M’s involvement with the larger refugee community, FARR aims to integrate students with Lancaster’s diverse populations of forced migrants through experiential learning opportunities in partnership with Church World Service (CWS).
Dr. Diya Abdo, founder of ECAR, has made it her mission to transform every college/university in the U.S. into a resettlement campus, or one that houses refugee families. Becoming an ECAR campus would mean leveraging existing resources— libraries, galleries, art studios, gyms, etc.— to help resettle incoming refugees with assistance from a local refugee resettlement agency. When Dr. Abdo thought about the responsibility put on European/Arab nations, and parishes, to take in refugees, she questioned if we could “then see the college or university campus as similarly responsible as a ‘country’ or as a ‘parish,’” that is capable of hosting refugees. She sees the campus as a “small city with everything you need,” and hence everything an incoming refugee would need for integration without losing their ethnic and cultural identities. In spirit of this radical reimagining of the campus as a place of refuge, FARR hopes to emphasize F&M’s resources and responsibility to play a role in welcoming refugees who have been displaced as part of the largest forced migration crisis in human history. The club’s hyperlocal focus ensures that students are getting to know their broader community— specifically its needs— so that they can understand a much larger global world without having to travel past our nation’s borders.
When asked why she started FARR, junior Angela Azar explains: “As a daughter of two Lebanese immigrants, I grew up constantly traveling to the Middle East and witnessing the harsh realities of Palestinian and Syrian refugees. I realized that conversation on the struggles of forced migrants disappeared when I returned to the states, and so I wanted to find a way to emphasize these silenced voices and stories on our campus. I hope that by starting a club that educates students about forced displacement, there will be more incentive to take part in resettlement efforts that are already happening in Lancaster.”
Working towards gaining ECAR status and eventually resettling refugees, FARR offers a plethora of volunteer opportunities with refugee families in partnership with CWS, a local refugee resettlement agency. Students can set up housing downtown for incoming families, become a medical ESL tutor for refugees who want to regain their medical licenses, become a part of an airport welcome team, or travel with families to clinics, pharmacies, and food pantries. Furthermore, students will get a chance to learn the foundations and core values of resettlement in the US through weekly meetings with resettled refugees who will share their experiences with traveling to the United States. FARR hopes to debunk certain myths that arise when speaking about refugees, but also give students from multiple disciplines and backgrounds a chance to apply their learned skills to a real, interdisciplinary field.
If you would like to join FARR and its efforts to transform F&M into a resettlement campus, please consider attending its first meeting on Thursday, March 30th 6:00-7:00 PM in Stahr Auditorium (Stager 102). We will have a special guest speaker from CWS come in and explain the basics of forced migration, but also introduce the first volunteer opportunity students can take part in!
Junior Angela Azar is a Contributing Writer. Her email address is email@example.com.