RefugeeOne Coat Drive
by Caroline Merck
One of the most amazing and unique aspects of Northside is the Wednesday schedule. The colloquia are the hallmark of the day, and students can participate in, and learn about, topics that they find most interesting. A new colloquium Northside offered this semester is called “Give me your tired, poor masses?” This colloquium is taught by Ms. Catherine Irving, social science chair, and focuses on America’s role in helping refugees and, more importantly, how students in Chicago can help displaced people locally and around the world.
This fall, the students are running a coat drive to donate to an organization called RefugeeOne, which creates opportunities for refugees fleeing war, terror, and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance. As the largest resettlement agency in Illinois, RefugeeOne has welcomed more than 17,500 refugees since 1982. RefugeeOne helps refugees from the day they land at O'Hare Airport. They help refugees by providing English classes, running job searches, providing mental health care and youth programming, and administering mentors to help them adjust to life in the United States. Their ultimate goal is to have refugees be self-sufficient in as little as six to nine months.
RefugeeOne helps refugees from countries all over the Middle East and Africa. Some of the countries that they help refugees from include Bhutan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria. RefugeeOne has welcomed refugees from every major world crisis, including Cambodian survivors of the infamous killing fields, Rwandans and Bosnians fleeing genocide, Iranians forced out by the Islamic Revolution, and most recently, Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war. In 2005, RefugeeOne even played a role in providing assistance for Americans displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They help refugees locally in Evanston, Skokie, and Chicago.
One of the amazing things about an organization like RefugeeOne is the way that they immerse those who they are helping into modern culture and help them become successful. They have helped young students learn English who have then succeeded in school, and they have helped adults who have had their families and all of their possessions taken away from them, to start new lives where they can thrive. It is truly an incredible organization.
Tiahnna Wade, Adv. 002, one of the students in charge of the coat drive, said, “The winters in Chicago can be really hard for people who don’t have coats and boots, so we thought that any way we can help these refugees in our city would make an impact.” She also mentioned all the little things her colloquium can do to help refugees thrive.
The group also considered other projects, such as a canned food drive, but they decided that the best way they could help was through RefugeeOne. “One of the reasons that we should help these refugees is because this is an important current event that is affecting all of us,” said Roshan Khan, Adv. 002. “So many of us have little siblings who are growing and don’t need their old coats or boots anymore, so it is easy to donate.”
The colloquium will place bags in each advisory so that students can drop the coats off in the morning. The coat drive will run through Oct. 24, 2017, and the donations will then be taken to the RefugeeOne facility in Chicago. They are accepting all sizes of boots and coats for men, women, and children.
The students are making colorful posters to advertise around the school, and to give specifics about when and where to bring in these items. Some teachers are even offering extra credit to students who bring in coats, in order to help get more people involved.
Northsiders are helping their community in such amazing ways, and this coat drive gives them another chance to make a difference. “The most important part is that everybody participates and brings in coats,” said Wade.
For more information on RefugeeOne, check out its website www.refugeeone.org