Students for Refugees is a club dedicated to helping incoming refugees across New York. In our weekly meetings we plan fundraisers, organize drives and donations, learn about refugees, and connect to the refugees we help. We have many volunteer opportunities, fit for all schedules, and a variety of interests and skills.
Edgemont’s Students for Refugees was founded early this school year following the Afghanistan crisis. Given the number of students at our school, the motivation we all have, and our tightly-knit community, founders Raphie Cai and Brenden Hosp believed that Edgemont could help change the lives of thousands of these refugees.
Our club works closely with Hearts and Homes for Refugees, a non-profit organization in Westchester, where many groups and volunteers come together to welcome refugees into their new homes. Hearts and Homes educate the community about refugees and also educates refugees about the community, including knowledge about housing, language, employment, and education.
“We want to provide them with the best, most safe, and most comfortable arrival in America, because [to them,] everything is so new.”
Some of our members, on behalf of Hearts and Homes, took part in a potluck for relocated refugees to socialize and meet volunteers. We also met Afghani refugees when they first deplaned and helped refugees secure their visas. Certain volunteers can also help refugees find apartments, schools, clothing, food, and other necessities. “We want to provide them with the best, most safe, and most comfortable arrival in America, because [to them,] everything is so new,” says Raphie Cai.
Within our club specifically, since physical volunteer work is tricky to partake in because of the pandemic, we have mostly dedicated our time to setting up fundraisers. We kick-started our club with a bake sale and set up a toy drive close to the holidays. We combined our toy drive with the Scarsdale High School’s refugee toy drive. Earlier in the year, we also made many welcome cards for an incoming refugee family. Our next project is a restaurant fundraiser, and we hope you all can help by participating in the club itself or at the fundraiser.
Students for Refugees’ long-term goals are “to get more students advocating and [bring] more knowledge about refugees to EHS students,” said Raphie. He added, “Everyone knows the refugee crisis is not good, but we want to convey truly the depth to how bad it is to the rest of the students.”
We students can help these refugees in many ways, both inside and outside the club. And even if you don’t have the time, just familiarize yourself with news about refugees and changing immigration policies. “Joining always helps,” says Brenden Hosp. “If we’re ever doing a drive, any small contribution always helps [too].” As Raphie puts it, “every single donation, every single toy, every single member we get, really matters. Even if we just get one toy from a toy drive, that one toy goes to a refugee kid and can make their day because they really don’t have much when they come here.” “They had to drop everything they had to come here,” Brendan adds, “and while they might go on to live a great life here they still lost all their possessions along the way.”
Edgemont’s Students for Refugees is student-run, and our meetings are always a jumble of productivity, fun, and light-heartedness. Before the winter break, for example, we had a gingerbread house contest, which resulted in innumerable smashed houses, people giving up and just eating the candy and icing, way too many sugar highs, and just one passable creation. We are, however, quick to adopt new ideas, and every voice is heard.