Student Group Raises Awareness of Refugee Crisis

The poster campaign aimed to debunk myths about the refugee resettlement process

By Annabelle Rice

Posters for the “Walk a Campus in My Shoes: A Refugee Journey” public awareness effort were set up around the quad for the week of May 14–18, brought to campus by the student group UChicago Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights.  

The campaign, which is affiliated with the United Nations High Commissioner lfor Refugees, seeks to educate students and community members about the global refugee crisis with basic information about the refugee demographic and the processes of vetting and assimilation.  

The campaign was founded by Kennesaw State student Matthew Tikhonovsky and his sister Natalie Tikhonovsky, who have traveled across the country to educate students at over 15 universities, including Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt, Emory, and Georgia Tech.  

In an e-mail exchange with The Maroon, Tikhonovsky said that he hopes to “inform the minds and open the hearts of college students towards refugees who have been resettled in America.”  

“Through the poster campaign, we hope to first and foremost debunk many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the refugee resettlement process and spark meaningful campus dialogue on refugee policy and relief efforts,” Tikhonovsky said. “One fact we want more students to be aware of is that the refugee resettlement process takes on average 17 years.”  

Tikhonovsky recommends a hands-on approach to getting involved in campaigning for refugee justice, citing tutoring refugee youths and lobbying for refugee rights at a city council meeting as examples of direct actions to take. 

“One opportunity we strongly champion is Paper Airplanes, an online tutoring service that pairs college students with Syrian refugees to tutor via webcam,” he said. 

The child of Ukrainian immigrants and the grandchild of refugees who fled to Kazakhstan during World War II, Tikhonovsky shared some of his most memorable experiences on the “Walk a Campus in My Shoes” campaign trail.  

“Interacting with college students across the nation has allowed me to witness firsthand the level of enthusiasm college students have for refugee advocacy and transitional justice,” he said. “Furthermore, I’ve been able to see the innovative and unique ways that students lobby for refugee rights on their respective campuses.”