Students Travel to Arizona to Help Refugees Adapt to New Communities

Students involved in GSL shell pecans during a service project in Arizona in January.
Three NWU students harvest pecans during their work with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network.
Students harvest oranges in Arizona.

Twelve Nebraska Wesleyan students involved in the student organization, Global Service Learning (GSL), spent their semester break in January at the Iskashitaa Refugee Network in Tucson, Ariz.

The group spent eight days helping refugees from across the world integrate into their new communities. They worked alongside refugees to harvest and distribute food, and made sure water was clean and available.

“For me, the highlight of the trip was forming relationships with the refugees,” said Madi Davis, a sophomore social work major from Lincoln. “I had never met so many people amongst so many cultural differences so eager to open their hearts and lives to me. I am still in contact with some of them.”

Said Velazquez, a junior global studies major from El Paso, Texas, said meeting so many people from around the world was a life-changing experience. He enjoyed working first-hand with stranded refugees in a state that is currently undergoing significant immigration reform. 

GSL provides opportunities for NWU students to incorporate hands-on service experiences with their academics. The organization serves the local Lincoln community all year, and participates in a national service project during the semester break, and in an international service project each summer.

The recent service project marked the second time GSL has worked with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network. GSL had a similar successful experience in 2011.

Kelli Wood, Service Learning and Global Service Learning Coordinator, said the group learned a lot about the immigrants, why they made the journey to the U.S., and how the U.S. border patrol works. The trip impacted both the refugees and the students.

Following the group’s daily work, they gathered for evening discussions and reflection on their experiences.

“Tucson is an experience that I won’t soon forget,” said Davis. “It changed the way I view relationships between different cultures across the world.”