COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WDVM) — For the next year, the University of Maryland College Park (UMD) will be home to several Afghan refugee families.
This is a partnership with International Rescue Committee, an international non-profit focused on providing aide overseas and helping refugees resettle in the U.S.
Since the Taliban took full control of Afghanistan, families have been fighting to get out of their home country. Some were able to make their way to the United States.
“The Afghan crisis was a humanitarian crisis that needed lots of us to think about, how is it that we are going to solve it,” said UMD’s Vice President of Student Affairs Patty Perillo.
Families have been adjusting to their new homes on the College Park campus since Monday.
“I’ve always felt that this is a very welcoming place, a place that doesn’t really tolerate too much racism doesn’t tolerate too much prejudice and to see that this university is offering a program like this — it just makes me feel good inside,” said UMD student Char Freedberg.
Despite the campus being open to the idea, some students do have some concerns — like how this could affect student housing
“Are they going to say, okay, we are putting these refugees in places so you guys are going to be kicked out of the dorms?” questioned Freedberg.
Perillo confirmed this won’t affect student housing directly.
“I will say is it will it will impact students housing experience in a really positive way. Our students who are living around the families will come to really understand what it means to live in community without what it means to share space, what it means to care for and support one another. What does it mean to bring different environments together and so I think it will have very, very positive experience for our students in terms of housing,” she said.
For other students, COVID-19 is a concern.
“They’re making students wear a mask inside a classroom setting but taking them off as soon as they step out the door and now they brought in people from an entirely different continent, entirely different country into campus. That kind of contradicts in my opinion what they’re telling us through e-mails and what they’ve been telling us the last semester,” said Collin Riviello.
This will be the non-profit’s first time placing Afghan refugees on a college campus. Perillo says she hopes this experience will become the blueprint.
“It took eight months because we’ve worked through lots of legal applications. And so now that we figured it out, others can learn from us others can use this model. We’re going to share a model with others and it will allow us to continue to be responsive to humanitarian crisis, like even the one that’s happening in Ukraine right now,” she said. “It gives us an opportunity to be responsive in real-time now because we figured out a pathway forward.”
Despite their concerns, Freedberg and Riviello are supportive of the refugees coming to campus.
“I just hope that things will be okay and people will be accepting towards the afghan refugees,” said Freedberg.
“I think it will just give them a better image. Maryland to the students cares about what’s going on in the world, not just what’s happening in your state, not just what’s happening on the east coast,” said Riviello.
The families will stay on campus for only one year. Over the next few weeks they will receive assistance to find jobs, permanent housing, education and counseling services.