Student Life

 St. Ambrose University Joins An Organization That Impacts The World

(Photo courtesy of Campus Ministry)

A Congolese refugee family arrived on campus and SAU could not be more excited. Many volunteers from SAU and the Quad Cities have ensured an inviting arrival for the family.

St. Ambrose University paired up with Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR) by hosting a refugee family on campus. ECAR is a nonprofit organization that inspires colleges and universities to host refugees on campus and to support them within their resettlement. 

“I founded ECAR in 2015 when I heard Pope Francis’ call on every parish in Europe to engage in radical hospitality and host one refugee family. I realized that colleges and universities have the same resources as parishes and can also host refugee families,” said Diya Abdo, Founder and Director of ECAR. 

Abdo spoke on the importance of this organization, “It is important to provide a softer landing and stronger beginning to our newest Americans while educating our campus and community about refugee and resettlement issues.”

St. Ambrose University is excited to be a part of this organization and to help a refugee family of eight resettle into the Quad Cities. “I think we have an opportunity here to be a help and also to learn. We also need to remember that there is so much we can learn from each and every person in that family and that gives us an opportunity to really live out what we say we do,” Sarah Rissler, Director of Student Success Center and on the Board of Directors at Tapestry Farms exclaimed.

Rissler adds, “I think this is a really interesting opportunity for SAU to live out its faith and to live out its mission and values. So, when we talk about being a catholic diocese institution, it offers an opportunity to discuss and explore what it really means to us to be catholic, what it really means to us to serve others, and also to learn from others.”

St. Ambrose has anticipated the arrival of the family through a variety of different ways to fully prepare for their resettlement from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country in Central Africa. “Over the summer we had the house painted, then we had students from GreenLife do some landscaping work. We also had a group from the Student Success Center paint the front porch and they also did some structural repairs to the arches, and then we had a group that came and helped move furniture into the house,” described Nicky Gant, Coordinator of Service and Justice.

GreenLife planted and cleaned areas around
the off campus house.
(Photo courtesy of Campus Ministry)
APJ (Ambrosians for Peace & Justice) created
tie blankets for the family.
(Photo courtesy of Campus Ministry)

Rissler added, “Any volunteers that are going to have any engagement with the family have to do training through World Relief, which is an online training, over modules that are meant to be completed. The training is still available to anyone that would want to volunteer.”

Rissler explains the most important aspect she took away from the training, “Never make an assumption was the most important thing from that training, which is true for any situation, but never make an assumption.”

ECAR has been a beneficial organization for many refugees. “Families enjoy being on campuses a great deal. They enjoy the resources and amenities while maintaining their privacy and connect very quickly to local city/town resources and communities,” Abdo said.

The refugee family will have access to many SAU resources. They will live in an off campus house and they will be welcome to use some facilities on campus: like our library, campus ministry and other services. 

Rissler is also a part of Tapestry Farms, a nonprofit organization in the Quad Cities that helps with long welcomes for refugee families. Tapestry Farms is one of the organizations that SAU has paired with to help support the refugee family at St. Ambrose. 

St. Ambrose also discovered ECAR because of Tapestry Farms. “Ann McGlynn, the Executive Director of Tapestry Farms, who we know through working with her on volunteer projects here in our community, approached us with the idea,” Gant said. McGlynn will also be working with the refugee family that SAU is hosting. 

Through experiences with Tapestry Farms and training with World Relief, many volunteers are prepared to help the refugee family step by step. Rissler said, “We know from experience in Tapestry Farms, that it is good to walk with the families. That is one of the big things that we talk about in Tapestry Farms is that we walk with the families – literally with the families, and showing them that this is how you turn this on, and this is what it does.” Volunteers will even be available to offer English lessons to the refugee family. 

Many volunteers from St. Ambrose and the Quad Cities will help the refugee family for as long as they can. “Volunteers will give them a tour of campus, let me know different amenities in the neighborhood that are available to them. Help them learn where the bus stop is, where the grocery store is, how the bank works, how to use technology, how to use appliances, things that come so easy to us,” Gant said. 

St. Ambrose is also the only college in the Midwest that is currently partaking in ECAR. “This is a really special way to be a part of something really unique, and that has a direct impact in the local community and the larger world,” Rissler said.

St. Ambrose is thrilled to have the family be a part of the SAU community, but the university will be protecting the privacy of the family to ensure their safety and comfort.