The Davidson Refugee Support (DRS) group is doing more than supporting refugees in Charlotte – they are also sending students abroad to tackle problems head-on. The group has extensive summer work planned out for the next year, including a series of lectures, a trip to the Middle East, and an update to Charlotte’s refugee support system using recently awarded funds.
Over the course of the semester and continuing on next year, there will be a series of lectures called the Syria Awareness Series, which focuses on recounting and explaining the situation in Syria as well as the refugee crisis. This past Monday, April 11, they had their first lecture where Dr. Miriam Cooke gave a talk on the topic of “The Syrian Revolution and the End of Ideology.” As an expert on the Middle East, Cooke gave a brief overview of the history of the conflict and today’s circumstances. Afterwards, she gave her own personal opinion on the crisis and her own perspective.
In addition to the lecture series, the DRS recently won several prizes at the Ideas of March, including Audience Favorite and the Second Prize overall, winning a total of $4500. Students Aman Madan ‘19, Anmar Jeerjees ‘18, and Kerry Honan ‘17 made the pitch at the event. Their proposal had several different elements; one was focusing on English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring, another for the community garden that they are building in Charlotte with Syrian refugees, and finally one for SAT and Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL), an English proficiency test, prep. The group was ecstatic to receive the awards, particularly their Audience Favorite award, “So we were really, really proud of what we did. And it showed that we cannot only impress judges but we can also impress the student body,” said Jeerjees ’18.
DRS knew that Charlotte’s refugee support group has needs, but they weren’t quite able to discern them. According to Madan ’17, they did exactly what every Davidson student would do: ask. “A lot of these organizations come in and say, we know what your needs are, we’ve worked with your type of people before, here how we are going to solve them. Our goal has always been to flip that and say, ‘We don’t know what your needs are, what are your needs, and let’s solve them together’.”
The first need that the group identified was for affordable, fresh, local produce which will give families a sense of autonomy and self-reliance. With the money they received from the Ideas of March, the community garden will become a community farm. Additionally, the ESL curriculum and citizenship test training is crucial to the success of any integrated immigrant family, however it has been described as, “Choppy. It’s not consistent, we pick from here and we pick from there. There is not a solid, sustainable, or robust curriculum that we’re working with,” said Madan ‘17. With the money the received, they plan to revamp the ESL curriculum and build it from the ground up. According to Madan ’17, “We’re providing an element of Davidson academics behind that English curriculum.”
In addition to the great work this semester, several students will be traveling to the Middle East this summer where they will be promoting a liberal arts education. Recently, Davidson College has joined a consortium of colleges that are now accepting Syrian refugee students whose education has been disrupted by the war. The group will be presenting to Syrian students and will be broadcasted on their social media websites, which have a following of over 300,000 people.
Madan said, “We are really excited to meet all these really cool people. Because there is a disconnect between us and these students. When we think about student refugees, we’re likely to think about people who are…homeless, no future, people that we normally wouldn’t connect with. I’m excited to dismantle that stereotype and meet with people who are really cool and really smart, and the only problems that they have is their education has been disrupted, as a result of politics through no fault of their own.”
Davidson Admissions, the Administration, and the Refugee Support Group have been working tirelessly hand-in-hand to offer this opportunity to refugee students, who are qualified, to receive a Davidson education.
If you would like to get involved in the work of the Davidson Refugee Support group, feel free to check out their website: davidsonrefugeesupport.org and use the “contact us” button. You can also email Anmar Jeerjees (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Aman Madan (email@example.com) to learn more about how you can become a part of the organization.