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Phoenix College “Adopts” 22 Refugee Families for the Holidays

January 06, 2014

For the past 13 years, Phoenix College’s staff, faculty and students have banded together during the holiday season to provide much needed assistance to locally-placed refugees. This year, 22 families will receive donations from the campus-wide effort.

Since its inception, over 250 families have benefited from the efforts by Phoenix College in conjunction with local agencies, including: Refugee Focus, the International Rescue Committee, Catholic Charities, and Arizona Immigrant and Refugee Services. Each year, a list of new refugee families is compiled from the local agencies and several families are selected. Part of the selection criteria includes that the family has been in the United States for less than one year, according to PC faculty member Dr. Joseph Kimbuende, who is also the co-founder of the effort. “They are typically in need of the most help,” he said. This year, the selected families hail from Myanmar (Burma), Iraq, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Guinea, Cuba, Haiti, and Burkina Faso. 

PC’s Adopt-A-Family program was inspired by an act of generosity experienced by Dr. Kimbuende while studying at Northern Arizona University. Coming to the US from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1986 to pursue his education, Dr. Kimbuende and his family lived very modestly. “There was a knock on the door one day and there were these strangers with gifts,” recalled Dr. Kimbuende. “It meant so much to us.” The unexpected generosity left a lasting impression.

The yearly effort, which was started by Dr. Kimbuende and Pam Rogers, who is now retired, began small – only being able to assist one family the first year. Each year, more and more departments became involved and is now a true campus-wide effort with a wide-range of departments, employee groups and clubs joining in to adopt their own family. “People are very generous,” said Dr. Kimbuende. “We don’t know how to thank the staff and faculty for what they do.” Students also join the effort by collecting money to purchase gift cards for each family.

The need is great and varied for refugee families; donations include everything from clothes and household goods to furniture and school supplies. Toys for the young ones are always on the list, too. Donations range from small to large and have previously included a laptop and a whole apartment’s worth of furniture. “Last year, someone was moving and donated their whole apartment,” recalled Dr. Kimbuende. “The woman had just moved into her apartment and it was empty. When she saw the furniture, tears started flowing down her face.”

Beyond donating the items, the PC community also enjoys delivering the donations to the families. A caravan makes it way every year from the campus to each of the homes, each car packed with donated goods and members of the PC community.

While Adopt-A-Family is a holiday tradition for PC, donations of new and gently-used item are accepted year-round to assist refugee families in need. If you are interested in donating, please contact Dr. Joseph Kimbuende at 602-285-7561.