Project Welcome connects students to Omaha communities

By MeganSchneider

From 2002 until the present, Nebraska has welcomed around 10,000 refugees from more than 48 different countries around the globe according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. This number will continue to grow as more and more issues arise globally. For Marian, that means Project Welcome, a club centered around welcoming refugees into the metro area, is needed more than ever.

Co-leader, senior Erin Line said, “These people are coming to a completely new country and sometimes know no one in the area, we try to make the transition for them as smooth as possible.” This year Project Welcome will be setting up an apartment for a newly-arriving family.

Donations of new or gently used household items will be very helpful. A sign-up for these items will be sent out to the Marian community a few weeks before the move-in. If a friend or family member is getting rid of furniture, think about possibly donating it. It would help immensely with nding nice items to gift to these families.

In 2016, the club was started by Social Studies teacher Mrs. Katy Salzman under the name Operation Welcome. Salzman says,
“I started it at Prep and I’ve always wanted to help refugees.” Before at Prep, the event was not sponsored by a certain club, just the general Campus Ministry. Salzman reflected on the beginning and said, “The first time we did a full refurbishment was probably around 2010, I’m still in contact with a few of the refugee families and some of close friends.” Every year since, Project Welcome has done a makeover or refurbishment for refugee families. Salzman connects Marian to families through the organizations Lutheran Family Services and Restoring Dignity. Both non-profits work to house refugees and help them settle in the Omaha area.

The problem these organizations are facing however, is finding affordable safe housing for these families. “It has created a bottleneck effect where people are coming in, but have nowhere to stay,” Salzman said. This forces agencies to use temporary housing like extended-stay hotels or AirBNB’s. Salzman hopes places will start to open up so agencies can provide more permanent places.

The club holds other events throughout the year to fundraise and promote inclusion. On Dec. 14 they will host a bake sale to fund their fleece blanket activity on Dec. 20. These blankets will be sent along with ‘welcome’ cards to refugee families. The club may be tasked with another makeover or move-in, in the Spring, but possible dates are not known yet.

Project Welcome is an amazing opportunity to create a positive impact in the Omaha community. “It’d be great to have student involvement in this,” Salzman said. So many families have benefited from the kindness of Project Welcome members and have been given a better shot at success in a new country.


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