Model refugee tent draws interest from campus community
One University of Oregon student group is inviting students to experience what life in a refugee tent is like. The tent, in the lawn between Condon Hall and Chapman Hall, is complete with a bedroll, cookware and study materials. It’s open for students to explore.
No Lost Generation is one of the first student chapters of a larger international initiative started by international associations such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and MercyCorps.
“The reason we created a model refugee tent is we wanted to help people put themselves in the shoes of a refugee and what that would be like living in these conditions,” said Maria Pervova, a co-founder of the student group. “Especially if you are trying to access education … we wanted to help people to be able to sympathize.”
No Lost Generation is trying to impress on students how many refugees are just like them.
“Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that hundreds of thousands of refugees are youth that are our age,” said Harley Emery, a sophomore and co-founder of NLG, “[They] are heading toward a college education and [their] education was interrupted by the war in Syria.”
NLG modeled the tent on campus after a shelter found in the Middle East, according to Harley. While the group is focused on refugees from the Middle East specifically, they acknowledge that the scope of the crisis is much broader.
“This is just the largest crisis right now so we’re trying to help alleviate that,” Pervova said.
NLG has attracted plenty of attention this week. Kate Abed, a freshman psychology major, who stopped by on Wednesday morning, said she was surprised at how small the tent was. She said the display helped her put herself in the shoes of someone living out the experience.
“Obviously it’s nothing like it would be if you were actually in that situation but I can imagine how scary and traumatic it would be,” she said, “but being in one is a lot different than just seeing pictures of it.”
In addition to awareness, NLG was also raising funds and collecting signatures for a petition to bring a refugee student to campus next year. The petition has about 2,000 signatures, according to Pervova. Signatures show the support of students while letters of support from different departments show that the desire on campus is to do something tangible for refugees seeking an education.
In addition to letters of support, the Office of International Affairs has pledged $10,000 a year to the scholarship proposed by NLG.
Pervova and Emery hope to take the petition and letters of support to administrators later this year to ask for their support.
NLG will return with the tent next Wednesday and Thursday.