Refugees in America have been a hot topic recently, but at Marian, the issue hits close to home.
Freshman Aluth Lual is the daughter of two Sudanese refugees who fled to America due to conflict in their country. They went through the lengthy process of refugee resettlement in America, which typically includes a series of interviews, medical exams, a citizenship test and a variety other requirements, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Although not a refugee herself, Lual has seen first-hand how important this resettlement program is and the effect that it has on the people involved. “It is important for everyone in America to realize how great they have it here,” Lual said. “Because of the experiences my parents had, I am so much more grateful to be at an amazing school like Marian, and my mom always talks about how great it would have been to have the opportunity to go to a school like this.”
For students interested in helping refugees locally, social studies and French teacher Mrs. Katy Salzman founded Operation Welcome- a club that offers a variety of services to refugee families. She taught at Creighton Prep prior to coming to Marian and helped with a similar club there, so it was important to her to continue the tradition at her new home. “I have been involved with helping refugee families for more than 25 years, and I wanted to continue that service here at Marian, and I’ve been absolutely delighted to see the response that I’ve gotten,” Salzman said.
The largest service event that the club offers is the refugee move-in, when the club partners with Creighton Prep to help buy the family groceries and furniture and then help set up their new home. The first move-in was held on Oct. 21, and the club hopes to participate in at least two more throughout the year. “My favorite part was seeing the finished product once we finished getting the house ready. It was very rewarding seeing the house completely put together and decorated. It showed that a lot can get done in a little amount of time with a lot of help,” junior Megan Rutten, participant in the move-in, said.
Though the move-ins are only offered to upperclassmen, underclassmen are encouraged to participate as well. “I joined the club because I wanted to help the family who was moving into the home and make sure they felt safe and secure. Even though I couldn’t help with the move-in, I wanted to help as much as I possibly could by making blankets,” freshman Sarah Burnett said.
The club had a bake sale on Dec. 7 to raise money for their fleece blanket drive, and the blankets will be made on Dec. 16, following the last final exam on that day.
They also hope to hold a diaper and feminine product drive, tutor refugee children, host a movie night and go to dinner at a refugee-owned restaurant. Salzman also hopes to have a refugee speaker come to talk about their experiences.
All students are encouraged to partake in the service opportunities that Operation Welcome provides, not just those who are in the club. “I really encourage everyone to participate in the drives, we greatly appreciate all the help we can get,” Salzman said.