Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge
President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is an initiative that has sparked interest at higher education institutions nationwide including those in Western New York. The goal of this challenge is for institutions of higher education to increase interfaith and community service conversations and action throughout the year. Representatives from colleges including the University of Buffalo, Erie Community College, Buffalo State College, Canisius College, Daemen College, Niagara College, and Houghton College met together to explore what answering this challenge might look like in WNY. While there are many ways that this challenge could be answered, the members of this group have agreed on pursuing a project they have entitled “Making Buffalo Home: A Multi-Campus Service Project Addressing the Needs of Refugees”.
It is the hope of the group that our colleges will see this as an opportunity to further discussions about faith and service as well as get behind the Making Buffalo Home project. Making Buffalo Home has the potential to increase awareness and better the situations of refugees in Buffalo as well as provide opportunities for dialogue and service both at our individual institutions and together. There are two events planned for this year which would bring together this group of colleges – a Research Symposium and Diversity Celebration – and the possibility for more. Additionally, the group hopes that our individual colleges will continue to pursue and even increase our efforts to serve the Buffalo refugee community.
We have an opportunity to showcase and build upon Houghton’s history of faith and service as well as learn from and be challenged by how other colleges are pursuing these goals. Get involved with Journey’s End Tutoring, set up a service day, research the challenges and opportunities within the refugee community in Buffalo, have conversations about interfaith and community service, spread the word, and put faith into action.
It all began in the fall of 2004 when eight students chose to come to Buffalo each Saturday during the semester to tutor Somali Bantu immigrant children who had recently arrived in Buffalo from refugee camps in Kenya. A former Houghton professor teaching the linguistics course in which the students were enrolled, worked with Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS) to organize the placements and arrange for the college to provide transportation. When the course ended, seven of the eight students decided to continue the tutoring during the spring semester and invite a few friends to join them. More than twenty-five student tutors made the weekly trip during the spring 2005 semester.
The success of the tutoring effort has continued and expanded. In fall 2011, 90 students were involved in the Saturday Journey’s End Tutoring program which required one school bus and two large vans each Saturday.
Other Service Opportunities
Feel free to contact The Office of Urban Connections to find out more information about connecting with programs, partners, finding internship opportunities, planning a service day, and more.