Weinberg senior Tracy Navichoque joined nearly 200 Northwestern students in exploring issues of nutrition, food policy, urban agriculture and other topics in nine faculty-led “learning excursions” to Chicago and Evanston locales as part of NU’s First Season, a day of experiential learning organized by One Book, One Northwestern. The One Book program encouraged the NU community to read Roger Thurow’s “The Last Hunger Season” and organizes programming related to the themes of the book. For the First Season activities, Navichoque led a group of students in the Refugee Resettlement track to learn about assistance available to refugee communities in Chicago. Read her recap of the experience below.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, Northwestern students traveled into Chicago to explore nine different tracks relating to social change. As a Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights member and One Book ambassador, I was able to lead and participate in the Refugee Resettlement Track. The Refugee Track not only provided students with an introduction to basic terms (such as the difference between a mutual aid association, forced migration, internally displaced people and a refugee agency, to name a few), but we also learned about the history of Bhutanese and Burmese citizens, their status as refugees and their reasons for seeking asylum.
We traveled to a city-owned lot in Albany Park that is now home to the Global Garden Refugees Training Farm. A failed condominium development project–an extension of Ronan Park–was transformed into a one-acre organic farm. The garden project began three years ago with funding from the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Project, a program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. While the program helps recent refugees to develop sources of income and promote healthy eating, the Global Garden has become a center for cultural collaboration and integration. Farmers yearning for saag, kyang ka bitter melons and other produce unfamiliar to the American market can comfortably grow and sell reminders of their homeland.
After our time at the garden, the Refugee Resettlement track headed to the Chinese Mutual Aid Association in Argyle. Nothing can quite describe the conversations over sweet bubble tea in Argyle after learning about refugee communities and aid efforts. The hour-long discussion with the director of operations provided us with knowledge of the community’s needs and the evolution of local planning work. The Chinese Mutual Aid Association operates under a misleading title because its services go far beyond aid and are not limited to Chinese immigrants and refugees.
Saturday’s trip through Chicago communities allowed me to explore new areas of the city, learn about prominent local organizations and meet new students as well as faculty members. Both organizations offered us occasions to return, volunteer, intern and learn beyond the daylong visit. The Global Garden and the Chinese Mutual Aid Association are always seeking English teachers and conversation partners. The opportunity to interact and engage through global topics and local efforts should continue to guide NU’s events in the future.
Read more about NU’s First Season learning excursions.