NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University is set to host its first refugee family this spring as part of Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR).

ECAR is a movement that provides support on college and university campuses. It’s a global outreach initiative that supports refugees by providing a welcoming environment to build a strong foundation of educational resources for the first stages of transition to a new country.

Over 40 colleges in the U.S. and Canada are preparing for new arrivals. ODU is the first public university in the country to become an ECAR partner and the first campus in Virginia to join the mission.

ODU’s associate vice president Bridget Weikel notes the direct link between this initiative and ODU’s wider mission.

“The ODU-ECAR initiative highlights the importance of engaging in global citizenship right in our community. In addition to the value of assisting a family that’s new to America, this program elevates our campus partnerships to engage our students in a variety of opportunities from educational awareness to action and teaching technical to transferrable skills,” Weikel said. “This initiative gives back to our global citizens and supports our students’ continued success at ODU.”

PhD student Jennifer Ditona will oversee the day-to-day aspects of hosting the first ODU refugee family. ODU will welcome its first refugee family, which has been awaiting relocation from Syria for more than two years. The University will host refugees for six to eight months while they transition into the community.

Organizers are collecting supplies for their first resident family, including housewares, books, nonperishable food items, cleaning supplies and more. Donation and volunteer needs will be ongoing. To get involved with refugee resettlement on ODU’s campus through direct volunteer support or giving, contact Ditona at