Camille Giacovas, a junior at Fairfield University, challenges her fellow students to dig deeper into their experiences working with and for refugees, and find long-term solutions to local and global issues related to the refugee crisis.
Through a service-learning experience mentoring refugee youths on Fairfield's campus, Camille discovered a passion for working with refugees and a desire to ensure the refugee youth mentoring program's permanence. This spring, Camille took over the program as the Mentoring Program Coordinator, liaising with community and on-campus partners to provide a successful and high quality mentoring experience. She coordinates the logistics of bringing refugee youth to campus, schedules mentors, and plans special events. She plans to expand the program and provide experiences in urban farming, art, and cooking to the young people and their families.
To expand support for local refugees, Camille wrote and was awarded a grant for $1,500 to reclaim and distribute gently used furniture and home goods that Fairfield University students discard at the end of the school year. Camille thinks creatively and takes every opportunity to improve the lives of refugees, and in doing so lives out our university's mission to share resources and expertise for the betterment of our community.
At Fairfield University I have forever sought out opportunities within the interdisciplinary International Studies major and Humanitarian Action minor to understand in what ways I can use this education to implement and encourage change. Thus, I built upon the Service-Learning component of my African Politics course during the Fall 2016 semester, working with youth refugees residing in the Fairfield community. In a matter of weeks, this initiative was welcomed and enacted into a University-wide program. Through structured mentoring sessions, Fairfield University students from all grades volunteer to addresses the often heavily weighted topic of refugees in America by fostering a cultural exchange in all areas of language, food, music, dance, and traditions, with the refugee youth in the local community. Additionally, meetings and information sessions are set up with college advisors to provide college preparation guidance, teaching the refugee youth about the American college application process. My goal is to ensure this program is not just a temporary opportunity, or a glimmer of light at Fairfield University amidst the darkness surrounding the refugee crisis world-wide. Instead, I envision this program as a seed, planted at Fairfield University, that will flourish into a nationwide initiative by students, educators, administrators, and legislators alike, in communities shared with refugee populations.