Last year, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million, branding the current refugee crisis the worst of its kind since World War II. By June of this year, that number had risen to 59.5 million, an unprecedented figure in recorded history.
As the global migrant crisis worsens, thousands of refugees from around the world continue to arrive in North Carolina. The Triangle has become a primary resettlement area within the state for individuals and families fleeing persecution and conflict, many of whom find temporary or permanent homes in Duke’s neighboring communities.
With burgeoning student interest in assisting refugee communities in accessing education, overcoming language barriers and finding community support, the Kenan Institute for Ethics Refugee Project, directed by Suzanne Shanahan, has grown to include many opportunities for the Duke community to build ties with its refugee neighbors, as well as to engage with refugees abroad. Through Kenan programs, Duke students and faculty are working to understand the impacts of this global crisis on the well-being of displaced people around the world.
Below are some ways you can get involved.
Feature photo: Elisa Finocchiaro.
In Iraq, SuWA means “togetherness.” At Duke, it also stands for Supporting Women’s Action, a student-organized community effort to empower refugee women in Durham through education, small business development and community building.
What began as a partnership between Duke students and Iraqi women in 2013 has grown into a community of women from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen and Morocco.
SuWA strives to create a comfortable space where women can discuss their challenges and work together toward shared solutions. The organization also educates the community through events like Voices of Home, an opportunity for refugee women to share photos and stories as they redefine home in Durham.
SuWA Skills provides professional mentorship opportunities to refugee women resettled in Durham. Many of these women are skilled workers who were forced to leave their homes and successful careers. Through SuWa Skills, female Duke students provide support and encouragement to these women to develop their own small business enterprises.
SuWA Speech works to help refugee women in Durham develop English skills and cultural familiarity. Weekly programs include:
- Topic-driven English classes for basic English learners
- One-on-one language tutoring
- Community-building events
- Focus groups to facilitate cultural expression
Learn More about SuWA.
Feature photo: UNICEF Ethiopia, Somali women engaged in incoming generating activity in Kobe refugee camp.
MASTERY is a weekly K-12 tutoring program for refugee youth in Durham, run by Kenan Institute for Ethics students.
The program pairs Duke undergraduate tutors and refugee students with the goal of providing mentorship, schoolwork assistance, English tutoring and a supportive community. While tutors help with studying and homework, their primary job is to encourage the students, support their creativity and potential, and help students to develop and achieve ambitious goals. Through the relationships developed in this class, college students help mentor and inspire younger students by sharing their own passion for learning.
This program is designed to inspire Duke undergraduates through their engagement with the Durham community. By working with refugees, students develop a better awareness of global issues present at a local level. Tutors and students should both come away with a clearer understanding of their community and a renewed love for learning.
For more information, contact:
Olivia Johnson: email@example.com
Jojo Ramseyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rishi Sachdev: email@example.com
Madison Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature photo: United Nations. Children inside a classroom at Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan.
DukeEngage in Dublin, Ireland
DukeEngage Dublin is a collaboration between the Kenan Institute, DukeEngage and more than half a dozen community based organizations in Ireland grappling with migrant and refugee issues.
Students are placed with small organizations working toward a variety of goals. Some placements support direct service, while others are focused on community organizing, advocacy or policy making.
Previous students have worked with unaccompanied minor refugees as they transition to life in Ireland, designed summer civic engagement programs to bring migrants together with Irish communities, set up citizenship application clinics, provided gender violence workshops for refugee women, and helped design local migrant councils to create mechanisms for migrant and refugee concerns to be heard and addressed.
More information is available on the DukeEngage site.
Feature photo: UN/David Ohana. Mother and child at a refugee camp.
DukeImmerse: Uprooted/Rerouted explores the dynamics of the current crisis and the challenges it poses for refugees, host communities and international law.
Duke students and faculty collaborate both with refugee communities and international, national and local NGOs working with these communities.
Students have traveled to Nepal, Egypt and Jordan and interviewed refugees from Bhutan, Syria and Iraq. Their reports from the field cover many topics: changing gender roles, diaspora and refugee identity, marriage among refugees, education and anxiety with resettlement, refugees and belonging, and faith in the refugee community.
Past students have conducted refugee-directed field interviews to reflect issues affecting refugee communities and to understand how displacement affects the well-being and the social identities of those displaced.
Students have also recited monologues culled from these field interviews to share refugee stories.
Read student reports and learn more on the Kenan website.
Feature photo: Lee Royal, demonstration in Germany.
Civic Participation of Refugee Youth in Durham
North Carolina ranks tenth in the country in terms of refugee resettlement. In the past three years, 2,500 refugees, predominantly from Bhutan, Burma and Iraq but also from Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere were resettled in the Triangle area. Resettlement poses numerous challenges for refugees whose history of violent displacement, together with cultural and linguistic barriers, often makes access to resources, jobs, education and social support difficult. Refugees also face substantial barriers to full participation in community life, and initial evidence suggests that they have significantly lower lifetime levels of civic engagement.
The Citizenship Lab project explores mechanisms for enhancing refugee civic participation with a focus on high school youth in Durham. The citizenship lab at Duke has a core objective to conduct a community based research project in Durham. Duke faculty, graduate students and undergraduates will explore the empirical relationship between social science research engagement and citizenship.
Feature photo: Omar Chatriwala, kids exit the women’s centre in Jerash Palestinian Refugee Camp, Jordan.
More information is available on the Bass Connections website.
The Kenan Institute’s ongoing fieldwork in Nepal, Egypt and locally in the Triangle on displacement and well-being indicates that efforts to provide solutions to displacement have effects for refugees’ mental health. This working group builds on an existing archive of refugee narratives from urban, refugee camp and resettlement contexts collected as part of the Institute’s ongoing programming. Using this prior research as a point of departure, the Bass Connections group proposes to study how the resettlement process, a global and transnational program where refugees are provided settlement in countries such as the United States, affects the mental health and well-being of refugees.
While there are growing bodies of research on pre- and post-displacement, this project considers resettlement as a global process which has implications for refugee health at different points, from the country of first asylum to the resettlement country. Prior research will be augmented by additional fieldwork in Jordan and Lebanon, and the primary focus will be on the effects of displacement/resettlement on three communities: Bhutanese, Iraqis and Syrians.
Feature photo: Oxfam International. Hygiene training for kids at Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso.