During the 2015-16 school year, a group of parent/guardian leaders from Whittier Elementary School launched the Refugee Welcome Project. Through this project, families from Whittier and Brooks Middle School created welcome kits for refugees from Somalia, Burma, Ethiopia and Syria. These kits included essential items that helped the refugees set up their new homes when they arrived in the United States. In addition to the creation of the kits, the project provided students with opportunities to learn about refugees and the circumstances that cause them to flee their homelands.
Based on the success of the first year, Whittier participated in the project again during the 2016-17 school year. Below are several of the highlights from this year.
- In December 2016, Whittier hosted a film screening of "A Good Lie," which was followed by a question and answer session with Peter Magai Bul and Gabriel Dut, who are two former Lost Boys of Sudan.
- In January 2017, Whittier ran a refugee camp simulation for third through fifth grade students in collaboration with Exodus World Service. The students moved through five stations that included Fleeing Home, Traveling by Boat, Crossing Borders, Living in a Refugee Camp and Arriving to the U.S. "Being a Good Neighbor" was selected as the theme for the project in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday. Read the OakPark.com article about the simulation >
- From February through April 2017, the Whittier school community collected items to fill 30 "Good Neighbor Kits" for refugee families who had arrived within the last year. The kits were "created to remind the refugees that we want them here, we care about their well-being, and we welcome them in our country and communities."
- In May 2017, the "Good Neighbor Kits" were delivered to refugees during two community meals that were organized in collaboration with the Rohingya Cultural Center and the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society. Approximately 18 families from Whittier were joined for the meals by more than 20 families from the Burmese-Rohingya and Iraqi refugee communities in Rogers Park and Edgewater.
People can email [email protected] if they have questions or are interested in additional information about the project.