Church World Service Lancaster and Millersville University have long collaborated in support of refugees and immigrants. This partnership has included ways for students and staff to get involved in direct services, community development and fundraising.
Over the past 35 years, CWS Lancaster has welcomed more than 7,000 new refugee neighbors to peace and safety in Lancaster County. Through partnerships with faith groups, organizations and individuals, CWS’ holistic programs empower clients toward long-term success and belonging through up to five years of services and support from initial welcome and resettlement through long-term integration and success.
The Millersville University Geography Department is currently working on a mapping project with CWS, which examines the housing capacity of boroughs in Lancaster County for refugee resettlement. CWS requested that the department first evaluate Millersville, Lititz and Elizabethtown. An online, interactive GIS map was created that included layers of data that are pertinent in determining refugee resettlement capacity. Once data was collected on rental availability, it became clear that affordable housing availability in Lancaster County was in very short supply.
Given the confirmation of a lack of affordable housing, and the need for a satellite office in a new location to help expand its reach, MU was asked to pivot and focus its attention on the Harrisburg region. CWS asked MU to develop a new online map with all the pertinent layers so they could use the data to determine the best location for a new satellite office. At the request of CWS, MU also expanded the data collection to include the West Shore area and Carlisle.
In addition to intern support for mapping refugee and immigrant service expansion, Millersville has worked with CWS Lancaster on internship opportunities within their Lancaster City office. Within the past three years, CWS Lancaster has worked with a total of 10 BASW and MSW students interning through the Millersville School of Social Work. The interns have operated within several program areas across the agency, offering support in cultural orientation, resettlement, employment, community organizing, and immigration services, as well as the development of an ECAR (Every Campus a Refuge) chapter in partnership with the Millersville Social Work department and student organization, RIDGE, Refugees and Immigrants Devoted to Growth and Excellence.
As a student organization dedicated to supporting refugee and immigrant neighbors, the RIDGE program has provided foundational support for the ECAR program. Under the ECAR program, each refugee family is temporarily housed on campus until they are able to obtain permanent housing in Lancaster County. They are provided with rental support, utilities, Wi-Fi, use of college facilities and resources, as well as a large community of support in the form of the college campus and its friends.
In addition to direct support, Millersville University and CWS Lancaster have collaborated on raising funds to support new Ukrainian neighbors who have been forced to flee. MU’s Festiville 2022 proceeds went to support CWS Lancaster programming that serves Ukrainians who have arrived in the U.S. on Humanitarian Parole. The festival featured several local performers and bands, including ska band Big Fat Meanies, rock band Eternal Frequency, African fusion artist Emmanuel Nsingani, country-rock singer Gillian Smith, multi-genre duo Dandy, bluegrass band Big Sky Quartet and the Music Business Technology Showcase Band. FestiVille typically serves as a concert that teaches students the organization and development of music events, as well as a way to bring the community together. However, Festiville 2022 sought to continue this tradition while supporting new Ukrainian neighbors.
Millersville University’s Ware Center and CWS have worked together to celebrate the cultures of our immigrant neighbors through “We the People: Acts of Welcome” first Friday performances. This year’s performances included Ukrainian actress, singer and producer Anna Koziar who sang, recited verse from a Ukrainian author, and provided a presentation about a fund she has created called the “Ukrainian Performing Arts Fund.” Additional performers included a Nepali youth dance troupe under the direction of Dilli Chapagain, singer and Columbian immigrant Ramiro Velasco, and Semukondo Olivier from the People’s Republic of Congo who performed two Afro-inspired songs.
For more information about CWS Lancaster, visit CWS Lancaster.