Embracing Diversity: No Such Thing as a One TRAC Mind
On Friday, February 2nd, the Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign celebrated one year since their official launch. From the very beginning, the organization, under Jordan Koslowsky’s leadership, had an ambitious goal: to mobilize the Trinity community to make a difference in the lives of refugees. TRAC’s clean and professional aesthetic takes over the campus every “TRAC Tuesday,” as students are invited to participate either by purchasing or proudly displaying their merchandise. It is hard to believe that an institution which exerts such a defining influence over Trinity culture has only been around for a year. Jordan’s initiative seems to be a testament to the experiences and training provided by the Global Projects program. His trip to Israel and Palestine brought him very close to the crisis, and inspired him to leverage his position and citizenship in the West to serve others.
TRAC also maintains a close connection to local organizations such as the Mennonite Central Committee. Their settlement committee worked closely with them to bring the family from the Congo, and Jordan had the opportunity to intern with the organization over the summer.
Like MCC, and other NGOs of a similar model, TRAC occupies a unique political position. On their website, they acknowledge that by nature they insert value-laden judgements into political and sovereign conflicts; “We recognize that the blessings we have are not our own, and due to the value of every human life we seek to enrich the lives of those suffering.” However, their website insists that they remain open to volunteers regardless of their political affiliations, as long as they agree to serve according to TRAC’s values.
As TRAC itself grows in awareness of the crisis, the organization must come to terms with the fact that this is a global issue. Terminology like “The Refugee Crisis” temps individuals to associate this issue with specific conflicts isolated in specific regions, such as Syria. Unfortunately, this tendency ignores the reality that nearly every continent has a refugee crisis.
“We hope that we can magnify the voices and stories of the 65.6 million people that are displaced around the world rather than speaking for them. These people are just that: people,” said Jordan.
LOVE and Logistics
TRAC’s core team is a testament to the empowered Trinity community; however, as the organization expands and looks to the future, some logistical challenges begin to arise.
The fact that TRAC is run by students poses several logistical complications—students are subject to deadlines and busy schedules. Arguably, however, we have more disposable time and energy than we will ever have.
TRAC currently works in partnership with Trinity’s LOVE ministries. LOVE (Local Outreach Volunteering and Evangelism) ministries, under the supervision of Peter Woekel, provides opportunities for students to volunteer with local organizations in the community. TRAC’s team, lead by Volunteer Coordinators Andrea Rodríguez and Sarah Kazanowski, participates by sending volunteers from the Trinity community to serve at the Middle Eastern Friendship centre. A previous Mars’ Hill article discussed the centre’s work, and TRAC’s vision for their partnership. TRAC is currently advertising for the position of volunteer coordinator, as Andrea intends to diversify her roles and responsibilities within the organization.
When TRAC first began, their most ambitious goal was to raise the funds and gather the resources necessary to settle a family here in Canada. At the end of August, they were successful. Just a few short days before O-day, the family arrived in Canada after a long journey from the Congo.
Jordan commented on their experience: “It is so easy for me to think that it is strange that they’ve never used a toaster, eaten pizza, seen snow, heard of hockey, or seen a domesticated dog. But, have you ever eaten ugali, spoken Swahili, or navigated the rainy season? With this perspective, it’s not just the individual experiences that are unique; it is the combination and the sheer enormity of a complete life change.” Members of TRAC all testify to the family’s faith and fortitude despite their experience.
As the settlement project comes to a close, TRAC continues to provide opportunities for students and members of the community to donate. The primary ongoing project is a scholarship for a refugee student to come to Trinity. The vision to “share inspiration” protects the innately human right to contribute, innovate, pursue self-improvement and answer God’s call. TRAC is also hopeful that through this effort, the Trinity community will be challenged to be a more comprehensive representation of the image of Christ.
Currently, only 1% of refugees gain a post-secondary education: “Stop and think about that,” said Jordan. “Think about why you are attending university, the doors it opens, and the community and experiences that have impacted you. This opportunity is only made possible to 1% of people that have been forced from home because of circumstances that they likely did nothing to deserve.”
Pursuing Belonging in Diversity
As TRAC grows in its capacity to serve refugees from around the world, the vision must expand to accommodate diverse needs and specific concerns. Jordan has this to say in regards to this issue: “The challenge with serving such a diverse body of people is that everyone views the world differently and handles circumstances differently. That said, the greatest joy in serving such a large diversity of people is the same: that everyone views the world differently and handles circumstances differently. This variance specifically makes it difficult to discern how to best communicate and love a person that may seem so different than yourself, but it also provides such an incredible opportunity to learn and broaden your perspectives on people and the world.”
Essentially, while distinct communities have nuanced needs, unique individuals also innovate diverse solutions. Over the past year, TRAC has demonstrated its ability to find and empower remarkable individuals who are capable of innovating and implementing creative solutions.