Immigrant and Refugee Partnerships

The Center for Citizenship and Community (CCC) has developed partnerships with local immigrant and refugee serving organizations, including the Indianapolis Public School English as a New Language Department, the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, Immigrant Welcome Center, Exodus Refugee Resettlement, Catholic Charities, and the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps.

These partnerships help Butler students, faculty, staff, and immigrant and refugee communities connect with others through curiosity and empathy in order to learn from commonalities as well as differences in beliefs, world views and cultures. These experiences also allow participants to comprehend the complexity of difference and to develop capacities for respect, mutuality, and reciprocity in collaborative relationships.

“You have a brother. You need anything, call me anytime.”

Emily Jones ’12, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Meeting with Iraqi refugee families to learn from them and to help them better understand American culture.

For course: RL 345 – Islam

An “Aha!” moment: “Ech”

The following excerpt from Emily’s reflection journal provides an example of how meaningful relationships are built during the service learning experience.

“Today, Omar showed me videos and pictures of his refugee camp. Pointing to an aerial view of shoddy white tents, he explained, “These were our homes.” A short video of men dancing together came next. “Some liked to dance; it brought us together.” Two more images followed – of a man on a stretcher and another lying lifeless on the side of the road. “We lost so many people,” Omar murmured. “My father and brother died there.”

After seeing these images, I asked Omar how his experiences had affected his faith. Omar sat still for a moment, thinking. He finally looked at Muhammad, our translator, and offered him a very lengthy response. When Omar finished, Muhammad merely said, “I guess our faith was strengthened.”

This was how my questions were usually met: with brevity. However, Omar and Muhammad’s brevity was not to be confused with superficiality. I understood their short answers to be the deepest and most expressive responses I could hope to hear from them. Both men were usually very hesitant to share their experiences, primarily because their relationship with Islam and their struggles in Iraq were too personal to be set out before me in casual conversation.

Neither was their brevity to be confused with hostility. Toward the end of our meeting, Omar asked me, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” When I told him none, he pointed to his chest. “Brother. You have a brother. You need anything, you call me anytime.”

Utterly humbled, I asked him, “How do you say ‘brother’?”


I smiled and nodded to him. “Ech.”

“Working with Alma and watching her grow was what really made my service-learning experience so remarkable.”

             Nikki Green ’15, Pre-Med/Biology

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Getting to know children in English as a second language

For course: Service Learning in Spanish

Favorite activity: Translating homework and helping the kids read books

An “Aha!” moment: Understanding

“When I first enrolled in “Service Learning in Spanish,” I thought I would just be helping Spanish-speaking kids with their homework.  I quickly learned, however, that tutoring was only the bare bones of my service-learning experience.

I tutored a second-grade girl named Alma.  Alma was not doing well academically, and she barely spoke a word of English.  After only one session with her, though, I discovered Alma was a bright girl and knew the answer to every question I asked.  The only reason her grades were poor was because she could not understand the teacher.

When I had first met her, the language barrier had isolated her so much that she would sit at the back of the classroom and would only talk with another Spanish-speaking student.

However, working week after week with Alma, I came to know her more as her English improved and her confidence increased.  By the end of the semester, she was eagerly speaking, interacting with others, and participating in class.

Working with Alma and watching her grow was what really made my service-learning experience so remarkable. My significant connection with her is what made all the difference between just a semester’s experience and life-long learning.”

“To him, hope meant a deliverance from a refugee camp three years ago. Hope meant finding a new home and new opportunities in the United States that he might not have had otherwise. Hope meant being thankful for life.”

Alex Tallentire ’13, Political Science (read more about Alex’s work with immigrants and refugees)

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Building bonds with refugees at Northview Middle School and First Baptist Church

For course: Introduction to International Politics and Political Science Research Methods

Favorite activity: Learning about himself through working with others

An “Aha!” moment: Listening

For nine months, I worked with a Burmese high school student who had lived in a Thai refugee camp and who had taught himself art by drawing in the dirt with a stick.

Three years ago, this student and his family immigrated to the United States, and he was thrown into the American school system as a fourteen-year-old boy.  With little time to adjust, he found himself lost, confused, and completely isolated.  At one point, he was kicked out of school, and he tried to take his own life.

However, at the end of nine months, I did not see the same student. Instead, I saw a young man who, on one of our last days together, drew a picture entitled “Hope.”  This picture, he explained, defined what hope meant to him.  To him, hope meant a deliverance from a refugee camp three years ago.  Hope meant finding a new home and new opportunities in the United States that he might not have had otherwise.  Hope meant being thankful for life.

Such experiences as these are what lead me to believe in the work the Center for Citizenship and Community does and the meaningful, powerful reciprocal relationships that results.”

Examples of Past Partnerships:

Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps: Every year more than 75,000 Americans donate their time in national and community service. The Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps (IRSC) is a grassroots program headquartered in Indianapolis, with 16 members, the program is able to provide service hours in a variety of non-for-profit sites that work directly and indirectly with local immigrant and refugee communities. The CCC has been a host site for an IRSC member for the past 4 years. This partnership has opened up numerous opportunities for teamwork and collaboration between Butler and a variety of organizations.

Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC): An organization with the goal of inspiring interfaith collaboration in order to strengthen civil society. Through our current partnership, service-learning students have worked with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees new to the Indianapolis area. For more information contact Hanako Gavia.

Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC): An organization that helps new immigrants integrate into American society. Potential opportunities include teaching ESL courses, and outreach work with recently arrived refugee communities. For more information, contact our Assistant Director Hanako Gavia .