The Heed the Call initiative, a student-led effort to encourage the university to house a refugee family on campus, gained new ground last week when it received endorsements from five student groups.
Max Rosner (COL ’18), who heads the movement, laid out plans for overcoming the logistical hurdles of the project from the podium of the Georgetown University Muslim Student Association’s spring formal event on March 17.
According to Rosner, several administrators and staff at Georgetown had informed him that the initiative would likely be impossible. Nevertheless, Rosner detailed his practical vision for the funding, coordination and long-term sustainability of his project.
The university could defray costs by offering the family existing on-campus housing, according to Rosner. Rosner also said necessary supplies could be secured for the family via a hybrid fundraising strategy of seeking monetary donations and holding supply drives.
“I am often asked if this is plausible at a campus in the middle of Washington, D.C. The simple answer is yes, but it will require work from our entire community,” Rosner said. “Heed the Call is promoting a hybrid fundraising system: one that relies on both drives as well as donations from the university and the university community. As a community of thousands, we are well-equipped to meet such a need.”
Multiple student organizations have endorsed Heed the Call since its launch, including the Georgetown University College Democrats, Georgetown University College Republicans, Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women at Georgetown and Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition.
Outgoing GUMSA president Khadija Mohamud (SFS ’17) said their executive board is still deliberating on whether to endorse the Heed the Call initiative.
“As of right now I can’t speak individually for the entire board, but having Max with us this evening is indicative that we are seeking ways in which we can encourage Georgetown to do more as an institution, and truly living out its Jesuit values,” Mohamud said. “If that means helping an initiative like this, and unanimously we all decide, then so be it.”
The initiative partners with “Every Campus a Refuge,” a program started at Guilford College in North Carolina. Both programs grew out of Pope Francis’ statement from September 2015 in which he called on “every religious community, every monastery, every shrine” to house one refugee family.
Of the more than 400 students who signed Heed the Call’s corresponding petition since its launch Feb. 21, over 200 have expressed interest in joining a task force to support the initiative, according to Rosner.
Patricia Maloof, program director of migration and refugee services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, said Georgetown can play an important role in addressing the refugee crisis. According to the United Nations, 13.5 million people in Syria require humanitarian assistance as a result of the Syrian Civil War.
“The refugees who arrive here are part of a larger global crisis of 65 million who are displaced because of war and conflict,” Maloof said. “It’s a huge number, and 21 million of those are recognized as refugees.”
Nine colleges across the United States, including Guilford College, have sponsored refugee families thus far. The Holy Trinity Catholic Church, located at 36th and N Street NW, also took in a refugee family this year, committing $70,000 to support the family.
“I believe that the Georgetown community can mirror this example of generosity,” Rosner said.
Rosner said the initiative is sustainable in the long-term. Lutheran Social Services, a 100-year-old organization that provides support for refugees and other vulnerable populations, follows a 12-month timeline for resettling refugees.
Citing the consensus between the Catholic and Muslim faiths to support refugees, Rosner called for action.
“Let us spark a movement of support and compassion, and a movement of welcoming every person, especially those fleeing conflict, like family,” Rosner said.
Correction: This article previously stated Rosner spoke at the Georgetown University Muslim Student Association formal last Friday; the formal was held March 17. This article also previously stated Wake Forest University has taken in a refugee family; they have only agreed to take a refugee family in but have not yet taken one.