SAU to host refugee family

Nicki Budenyak of One Eighty stands in a house donated by St. Ambrose University in Davenport that will become a home to a refugee family later this year.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University will host a refugee family this fall as part of the Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) program. It is the first campus in Iowa to be a part of this program.

“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,” said Nicky Gant, campus ministry service and justice coordinator for St. Ambrose. “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.”

Diya Abdo of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina founded ECAR in 2015. “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,” she said.


Guilford has hosted 90 refugees. Altogether, 16 higher education institutions have ECAR chapters. “We are so proud to be partnering with St. Ambrose, the first university in Iowa to join ECAR, and we hope that many other institutions will follow suit. ECAR was inspired by Pope Francis’ call on every parish to host a refugee family. ECAR was founded on the firm belief that colleges and universities are well-positioned and well-resourced to engage in these powerful acts of welcome and inclusion that transform everyone involved — newcomers, students and communities,” she said. Each chapter partners with a local resettlement agency and other organizations supporting refugees to provide welcome and integration services to newcomer families.

Gant learned about the opportunity through Ann McGlynn, executive director of Tapestry Farms. “She reached out to us in campus ministry about a potential partnership with the university and ECAR.” As part of the university’s strategic planning, some student housing was going to be freed up, “so it seemed like a natural opportunity to potentially house a vulnerable family,” Gant said.

The St. Ambrose University (SAU) campus ministry team began work on a proposal last year and submitted it to President Amy Novak and the SAU university cabinet last fall. The team received approval Jan. 9 and has been working hard to “prepare to receive a family ever since,” Gant said.

Living out the values of Catholic Social Teaching is part of the university’s mission, demonstrated “in tangible ways that create opportunities for students to serve others and learn what it means to truly live our faith.” ECAR “will provide valuable opportunities for students to learn and grow through direct service to the family, inspire our campus community to gain greater awareness of the global refugee crisis and hopefully motivate students to find their own way to practice hospitality for those in need long after they graduate,” Gant said.

She is heartened to hear from so many SAU faculty, staff and students eager to support the prospective family. As part of ECAR, SAU will provide free housing and access to campus facilities such as the library, career center, art gallery, athletic events, theater performances and the chapel. Students, faculty and staff will also provide support to the family as volunteers, in collaboration with other nonprofit organizations. Partners in addition to Tapestry Farms are World Relief, Humility Homes and Services, Humble Dwellings, One-Eighty and Deere & Co.

ECAR ties in with the university’s 20th annual Ambrosians Working for Social Justice Conference this year with a focus on radical hospitality.

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