A college student provided assistance to her hometown following serious flooding. While serving, she got to interact with people whom she knew personally and was able to impact their lives in a meaningful way. She lived in a small, neighboring town of Omaha, Nebraska, a location where Refuge Relief deployed college students to provide disaster relief.
Refuge Relief is an organization committed to providing humanitarian aid primarily through college student volunteers deploying to locations affected by disaster. BJU has partnered with Refuge Relief as one of seven universities eligible for student deployment opportunities through the organization.
Refuge Relief’s Mission
Refuge Relief founder Landon Keen explained the opportunities BJU students have to serve. Registered students are notified about deployments — typically four- to 10-day trips to an affected area.
Refuge Relief seeks to adhere to the disaster relief cycle, which includes response, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Keen explained how Refuge wants students to engage with victims of a disaster. “Our job, as students to deploy to these sites, is not to tell them when they can return to normal. Our job is to help them return to a sense of normality every day,” he said.
Keen also emphasized how the Gospel is a primary part of this ministry. “The main purpose behind this is to share the Gospel with those who need it most,” he said.
Keen said the timing of deployments is dependent on when disaster strikes. Some deployments follow a few weeks after the disaster, while others might occur a few months later. Right after a disaster, Refuge makes a plan and reaches out first to students at partnering universities closest to the disaster. They continue to pursue students on their roster until all volunteer slots are filled.
How Refuge Partners
Refuge Relief selects partnership universities by reaching out to schools like-minded in Christian faith with a willingness to serve. “The partnerships that we work with are the ones that dive headfirst, knowing that they are going to be working for the kingdom, and knowing that they are going to be making a lasting impact,” Keen said.
Center for Global Opportunities director Jordan Baun expects any BJU students to rise to the call. He said that he had a burden for disaster relief following Hurricane Florence in 2018 and that students expressed a desire to become involved as well. Though BJU could not find an outlet for involvement then, Refuge Relief now serves as a direct connection for the University.
Sophomore Katie Rogers attended the interest meeting and signed up to be listed on Refuge’s roster. She plans to go on the first deployment offered to BJU students. “I think this will be a good learning experience for me, getting to be there for other people when they are in need,” Rogers said.
Senior Elizabeth Madeira views Refuge as an outlet to serve in a meaningful way. “We understand the risks, we understand the hardships, but we’re here to serve others, not be comfortable.”
Refuge Relief notified BJU students this week about a deployment opportunity to the greater New Orleans area to assist victims of Hurricane Ida.