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Marian High School senior Olivia Tate smiles at classmate Ellie Messerschmidt while unloading a mattress Oct. 9 for a refugee family from Afghanistan. Creighton Prep seniors Connell Monaghan, left, and Logan Field, in truck, and junior Matt Muellner also helped with the move.

Creighton Prep and Marian High team up to help refugee families

Beds and bedding, a couch and a kitchen table, silverware, plates, cups and dishes, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, towels and an alarm clock.

All the items needed to set up an apartment for a Muslim refugee family of five from Afghanistan – plus groceries for two weeks – were donated recently by parents, students and staff at Creighton Preparatory School and Marian High School, both in Omaha, and delivered by about 25 students Oct. 9.

And it’s not just one family. Working with Lutheran Family Services in Omaha, the schools will help at least three refugee families this year. Since Creighton Prep started the effort in 2013, and Marian joined last year, the schools have helped about a dozen refugee families settle into the Omaha area.

"If we don’t do it, who else is going to?" said Julia Hingorani, a senior at Marian who has helped two families – one last year as part of the school’s Operation Welcome club and one this year as part of the core team.

Dylan Ritter, a senior at Creighton Prep, said he has helped refugee families since freshman year, first through a friend at the school, then more officially with the school’s effort, named the Bergoglio Project after Pope Francis.

He wasn’t excited about the idea at first, Ritter said.

"But after I met with the families, and heard some of their stories, I knew I needed to do it," Ritter said. Many families have been violently displaced, and have spent years in refugee camps before finding their way to the United States, he said.

Katy Salzman, a social studies teacher at Marian, began the refugee effort during a nine-year teaching stint at Creighton Prep. Last year, when she took the job at Marian, she and Dave Lawler, director of campus ministry at Creighton Prep, decided to combine efforts and keep the program going.

And last month, they were delighted that move-in day coincided with the launch of Pope Francis’ two-year "Share the Journey" efforts by the Catholic Church to support migrants and refugees around the world, Salzman said.

With the pope calling for a special week of prayer and action Oct. 7-13, both schools also included migrants and refugees in their prayers, Salzman said.

Hingorani said the resettlement effort is a rewarding way to serve others.

"I just think they need our help," she said. "They have such a hard transition and culture shock."

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