Students Get a Chance to Help Refugees

January 13, 2011 Updated Jan 13, 2011 at 12:33 AM EDT

By Lou Chilelli

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January 13, 2011 Updated Jan 13, 2011 at 12:33 AM EDT

Buffalo is the first stop on the way to a new life for dozens of refugees each year. One local organization has found a unique way to rally volunteers to help their cause. Journey's End Refugee Services held an orientation to explain the rules for their Home Again Project. The attendees are representatives of local high schools.

Tom Tripp is a member of the organization's board of directors. He says, "There's going to be five schools this time around We are asking them in a friendly contest type of way to set up apartments for incoming refugees. It will probably happen in February and March." The students will return to their schools and ready their fellow volunteers.

"And their job will be to get as much furniture that they can...decorations if they can...make the place homey. If they want, the option is to stock it with food for a few weeks or perhaps a month...culturally appropriate food." said Tripp. Journey's End has done this sort of thing before. In the past, local churches have sponsored apartments. Students from high schools in Orchard Park and Hamburg are set to go...along with students from the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Tapestry School and Nichols School.

Mary Rindfuss, a junior at Hamburg High School, is one of the volunteers, "Trying to get into teams in our group and within that we are going to tell people about it...like our relatives and family and friends. We'll ask them if they have things that we need. We have some money that we have raised through other things. We're going to use some of that to buy things that we can't find."

Students don't yet know were their apartment will be or even how much space they will have to fill. They will get one week's notice when an apartment and a family are chosen. They will then have four hours on a Saturday morning to set up. Kids will learn about the plight of refugees and fulfill school requirements.