A Morning with DukeImmerse

Hosting student groups provides CRP with an opportunity to share our organization, our work, and the reality of life for refugees in Jordan. The students who visit CRP bring back what they have seen, heard, and learned to their families, friends, and classmates at home, spreading CRP’s reach beyond the borders of Amman. On Thursday, CRP hosted students from DukeImmerse: De-Constructing/Re-Constructing the Refugee Experience. The program, led by Suzanne Shanahan, a professor of sociology and director of Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, provides Duke undergraduate students the opportunity to study refugee crises and the international challenges these crises pose. The students take classes on the subject and spend a month doing field research in Jordan.

This year’s participants have a range of academic interests at Duke, majoring in diverse subjects such as human rights, environmental science, and global comparative studies.

“The group is studying displacement for the semester,” Shanahan explained. “We’re meeting with different organizations and collecting life stories from refugees.”

“We and our children, we all have dreams, but now our dreams are full of darkness.”

Tra Tran, a research associate at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, said, “Suzanne and I have been doing this trip for four years now.”

The students had the opportunity to speak with several of CRP’s full-time volunteers. Abu Qais, a refugee from Syria who worked as a lawyer before being forced to flee his home to protect his family, told the students, “Refugees need your help because they are in very frustrating and difficult situations. Please bring these stories back to your country. We do need your help.” He explained that as refugees, “We want to live and learn just like you are learning. We and our children, we all have dreams, but now our dreams are full of darkness.”

Ameera is an Iraqi refugee. She told the students that when she arrived in Jordan, she thought of her situation as temporary and hoped that she and her family would be quickly resettled to Australia. However, fewer than one percent of refugees worldwide are ever resettled, and Ameera’s family has not received approval. “It’s so hard that no one cares for us,” she said.

Abu Qais highlighted for the students the difference between his situation as a refugee and theirs as American students. “You go to many countries to learn, as students, but we can’t go anywhere.” He added, “Our UN paperwork says: you are a refugee. Not a person.”

Abu Essam arrived in Jordan in 2012, also as a refugee from Syria. He said that volunteering at CRP has helped him manage stress as his work here makes him feel productive and useful to his community. “From the first day, all we’ve wanted is a safe place,” he said.

We hope the Duke students enjoyed their visit and will bring what they’ve learned back to their home communities. Fewer than 1% of refugees will ever be resettled, and in the meanwhile, it is essential to support organizations that work where refugees live.