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Every Campus a Refuge

Christina Smith, SVR Steering Committee Member interview with
Dr. Diya Abdo from Every Campus a Refuge

January 22, 2021 


Background & Overview

Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) was founded in 2015 under the premise that every college and university around the world should host one refugee family. Inspired by the grassroots refugee activism taking place in Europe, founding campus Guilford College felt colleges and universities were perfectly suited for that same work. The premise is this: a campus partners with a local refugee resettlement agency to support newly resettled refugees, who they also house on their campus. The degree of involvement varies by campus, but many students, after training and vetting from the resettlement agency, will carry out resettlement tasks. Ultimately, students serve as a support to the refugees living on campus, accompanying them through their first few months in a variety of ways. 


Building the Program

Founder and Director Dr. Diya Abdo shared that bringing ECAR to a campus is most successful when initiated by students. However, it’s important to find a department on campus that will provide an organizational home to the effort. Additionally, each campus should have a Program Coordinator, although that person can be a student. Many colleges and universities learn about ECAR through media stories or interviews. Some choose to participate just once and others build ECAR into the infrastructure of their campus. Founding campus Guilford has even created two academic minors to complement the program, mostly using classes already in existence. However, ECAR can be uniquely tailored to each campus.


Successes & Challenges 

Dr. Abdo identified ECAR’s benchmarks for success as follows: the success of the family, their ability to settle in successfully, their ability to find a job and house they want, and their feelings of integration. ECAR tracks this through research. When asked about challenges, Dr. Abdo shared that they are more ideological than practical. Most of the effort required is already being done on college campuses, so the work itself is easy; it’s convincing colleges that this is not a political issue that is challenging. Dr. Abdo also wants to combat the narrative that they are “taking care of” refugees.


Moving Forward

ECAR has spread to other colleges and universities and will hopefully continue to do so. Dr. Abdo is hopeful that the Biden administration will allow for more expansion. She shared that one basic step anyone interested can do right now is to look up the refugee situation in your city right now and the resettlement agency(ies) nearby.

contact info: ​ 

Meet SVR Volunteer, Christina Smith

Christina Smith, SVR Steering Committee Member. 

Christina Smith (she/her) is a Masters student in International Education Policy at University of Maryland where she studies higher education access for refugees and asylum seekers. She is thrilled to be a part of the Student Voices for Refugees Network! Prior to graduate school, she developed a college access mentoring program for refugee students in Baltimore through the BCCC Refugee Youth Project and UMBC, and also worked at the headquarters of a refugee resettlement agency.

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