St. Ambrose University in Davenport is the first college campus in Iowa to join Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR).

ECAR is a higher-education initiative founded in 2015 at Guilford College in North Carolina. Its founder Diya Adbo, Ph.D., believes in a radical reimagination of higher education and campus life, according to a Wednesday release from St. Ambrose.

“A campus is organically well-suited to be a physical place of refuge in times of crisis,” Abdo said in the release. “A campus has everything necessary to function like a small city. We have housing, cafeterias, clinics, and plenty of human resources and connections to provide financial, social, and cultural support.”

One Eighty volunteer Nikki Bubenyak, right, is among the volunteers helping to paint the SAU campus home for a refugee family. Humble Dwellings helped decorate the house.

ECAR’s mission is to make every U.S. college and university a Resettlement Campus that can host refugees on campus grounds and support their successful integration.

In response to Pope Francis’ call on every European parish to host one refugee family, ECAR was founded by Dr. Diya Abdo in September 2015 to call on every college and university in the world to partner with their local refugee resettlement agencies to house refugees on campus grounds and assist them in resettlement, according to the ECAR website.

“At St. Ambrose, we are committed to living out our commitment to social justice in tangible ways, which add value to the education of our students,” Nicky Gant, St. Ambrose Service & Justice Coordinator, said Wednesday by e-mail. “The ECAR program will allow us to house and provide support to a vulnerable family, while providing valuable opportunities for faculty, staff and students to learn by being of service to the family and becoming more aware of the global refugee crisis. 

St. Ambrose University is at 518 W. Locust St., Davenport.

“It’s been very exciting to see a large number of faculty, staff, and students, who wish to engage in this process of welcoming a vulnerable family and raising awareness of the refugee crisis here on campus,” she said. “While we work to serve this family, there will be many opportunities for us to learn, grow, and live out our Ambrosian values as a campus community. I hope our participation in the ECAR program will educate and inspire students to live out these values as they graduate and go out into the world.”

An Ambrose welcome

The refugee family (who will live on campus at no charge) will benefit from receiving a warm welcome from the SAU campus community “because opportunities to build connections with Americans creates conditions for long-term success in resettlement,” Gant said.

Nicole Gant is St. Ambrose University’s service and justice coordinator.

“On campus, the family will receive access to volunteer support with ESL and tutoring for example, along with safe shelter,” she said. “They will also receive access to our library, sports games, theater performances, art galleries, community events, counseling center and chapel in addition to possible job opportunities and childcare.

“They will benefit from our location, near busing, banking, schools, groceries, healthcare services, social services, employment opportunities and non-profit agencies, which can provide additional support to the family, most notably Tapestry Farms,” Gant said.

“Our students will learn from the example of seeing how we put Catholic Social Teaching into action,” she added. “Having a family here on campus creates natural opportunities for impactful student service projects and service learning, which will evolve over time.”

Gant declined to disclose specific details about the family in order to protect their privacy while they live here on campus, since they are in such a vulnerable situation, she noted.

“We plan to house one family of refugees per year, as they go through their initial adjustment process here in America,” Gant said. “Once they are employed and adjusted to the cultural differences well enough, they will be responsible for finding their own housing, so we can welcome another family.”

ECAR has furthered its mission to partner every U.S. higher education institution with local refugee resettlement agencies as co-sponsors to host refugees on campus and now has 16 chapters across the country — with St. Ambrose being the first of its kind in Iowa.

As SAU prepares for the family’s arrival this fall, the university has been actively forging meaningful partnerships throughout the community to help the family’s integration.

Volunteers from One Eighty have helped paint the campus residence.

Various QC organizations and individuals have eagerly stepped forward to contribute their expertise, resources, and support to help renovate the SAU residence into a welcoming home, most notably Tapestry Farms, One Eighty, Humble Dwellings, Humility Homes and Services, Inc., and John Deere.

20th annual conference

With the 20th-annual Ambrosians Working for Social Justice Conference centered around radical hospitality, the university is dedicated to actively dismantling barriers to belonging for people affected by immigration status, those on a recovery journey, or with a history of incarceration, SAU said in its Wednesday release.

SAU will welcome Joyful Clemantine Wamariya, humanitarian activist and best-selling author, as the keynote speaker for the 20th-annual AWSJ conference on Oct. 3, 2023.

The conference will be Oct. 3, 2023, on campus in the Rogalski Center. The event will feature Joyful Clemantine Wamariya (a native of Rwanda), humanitarian activist and best-selling author, as the keynote speaker.

The AWSJ 2023 Social Justice Conference will address the theme of “radical hospitality” and attend to the growing humanitarian crisis related to immigration and those seeking asylum from various places of harm.

“We will consider how to dismantle the barriers to belonging faced because of immigration status, recovery journey, or history of incarceration,” the event website says. “Through workshops, presentations, and sharing together, we will ask how to practice radical hospitality as individuals, institutions, and communities, and seek out next steps to truly welcome the foreigner, the outcast, and the outsider, into our communities and lives.”

For more information on ECAR, click HERE.