Four students spoke Wednesday evening on a panel about refugee resettlement in the Elm City and abroad.
At the event Refugee Journey: Travel, Arrival and Integration, co-hosted by Yale United Nations Children’s Fund and the Yale Refugee Project, roughly 40 students and community members viewed short films before hearing the panelists discuss their experiences in William L. Harkness Hall. Rosa Shapiro-Thompson ’19, Advocacy and Awareness Coordinator of the Yale Refugee Project and event organizer, said the group wanted to have a diverse panel of speakers who had done work or research surrounding refugee issues.
One of the panelists, Susan Aboeid ’19, spoke about her experience tutoring refugee children in New Haven public schools as the curricular developer and tutor coordinator for undergraduate student group Students of Salaam.
“I think one of the main things we can do as students is just viewing refugees as humans,” Aboeid said.
SOS was founded last year in response to a need in New Haven public schools for refugee students mentorship, Aboeid said. The group now boasts roughly 30 tutors who work once a week with classes and families and attempts to match children with tutors who speak their language, she said.
SOS is also hoping to bridge gaps between refugees and the New Haven community to fight the media’s negative portrayals of refugees, Aboeid said. On Thursday, SOS will host an open forum about the 2016 election for community members at the New Haven Public Library. New Haven is one of 31 sanctuary cities in the U.S.
Danilo Zak ’18, director of Direct Assistance for the Yale Refugee Project, said Yale has many campus organizations to support refugees. But beyond service work, people must watch the ways they discuss refugees, he said. Many people tend to view refugees as either people to be feared or saved, but neither outlook truly represents them, Zak said — instead, refugees should be viewed as ordinary people.
Redha Qabazard SPH ’18, who has worked at the Yale Center for Child Studies and in Beirut, discussed the effects of violence and displacement on children.
“Migration isn’t the end of violence,” Qabazard said. “These refugee camps are also concentrated areas of danger.”
He spoke about the trauma that occurs after families leave conflict situations for crowded refugee camps, and the difficulties parents face when they attempt to raise their children without access to proper resources.
Gathe Kiwan ’17, another panelist and a Syrian-American dual citizen, spoke about his experience working in refugee camps. He said people must stand up to xenophobic rhetoric when they hear it.
There are nearly 21.3 million refugees in the world, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.