EASTON, Pa. - A group of Lafayette College students is devoted to serving refugees.
Refugees remain in the headlines, as about 1,000 Afghans are resettling in Pennsylvania, and more than 500 are in New Jersey.
"That inspired new members to join, so that allows us to grow our team and get more resources, and be able to potentially help more families," said Fatma Mahmoudi, the co-president of Lafayette Refugee Action.
Lafayette Refugee Action is comprised of about 50 students. The group works with the resettlement agency Bethany Christian Services to welcome new families to the Lehigh Valley.
"In a year, we take one new family, but we also kind of keep working with the past family that we settled," said Mahmoudi.
The students divide and conquer with five committees: education, finance, housing, accommodations, and case management.
"We help them get housing via Lafayette College, but that's temporary," said Mahmoudi. "That kind of bridges the gap between the arrival and reaching financial stability."
Students then help the family they are working with find a permanent home, and assist with immigration paperwork and job applications.
"On the medical side of things, I help them schedule all of their initial doctor appointments, get all their blood work taken care of," said Ariel Haber-Fawcett, the case management committee chair at Lafayette Refugee Action. "Make sure they understand where to go for their doctor appointments, how to call the doctor."
Lafayette Refugee Action doesn't share which countries the families are from for privacy and safety purposes. It hosts several fundraisers to cover expenses, as well as community events.
"Gaining a better understanding for what is going on in the world regarding refugees," said Anna Boggess, the co-president of Lafayette Refugee Action.
A Lafayette alum who was a refugee and now works in resettlement in New Jersey is set to speak at the group's next event, scheduled for late October.
While Refugee Action involves a lot of giving and volunteering, its members agree what they get back is incredibly valuable.
"Getting to build a relationship with someone from a completely new country and become their friend," said Haber-Fawcett.
"It's one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had," said Boggess. "Not only are we like helping other families, but we're also just learning so much about ourselves."
The students devote countless hours to the cause each week.
"I honestly care a lot about the refugee crisis in general," said Mahmoudi. "When I look at numbers, the number of people fleeing their countries, whether it's internally or internationally, is at a record level."
"I also just feel like it's such an important issue that so many people I feel like just kind of know the surface level of what's going on," said Boggess. "It's just something I have a passion for in terms of educating more people about what is actually going on and just kind of sharing that passion with other people."
Lafayette Refugee Action's website has more information about events and how community members can get involved.