Eleven Creighton Prep students filled a home with furniture Saturday, mulled over their good fortune and considered the conditions others endure around the world.
The members of Katy Salzman's Conflict and Refugees class put tables, couches, desks, beds, dishware, pots and other supplies into a house near 31st and Cass Streets that will be occupied early this week by a refugee family of six from Sudan.
“I'm learning that I shouldn't take anything for granted,” said Anthony DiDonato, a Prep senior.
The class examines the hardships suffered by refugees — people who must flee their homeland because of ethnic, religious or political persecution. Many spend years in refugee camps before relocating to the United States or another nation.
The Sudanese family for whom the students were preparing a home escaped their homeland and have been refugees in Egypt, Salzman said.
The Prep students unloaded a peach-colored couch that moments later would find its new position in the world. “Living room,” instructed senior Jack Hutchings, 17, as two carried it inside the gray house.
The students collected the furniture from Creighton Prep parents, teachers, Jesuit priests and friends and supporters. They raised money for mops, toilet paper, trash bags and other supplies by selling doughnuts and muffins at school.
Under Salzman, the students study how wars and conflicts in places such as Syria and Somalia uproot people. Salzman worked for a United Nations refugee program that took her to Europe and Africa about 20 years ago. She is in her seventh year as a Prep teacher.
“The world's refugees are in really difficult places,” she said. “They are truly the world's most vulnerable people.”
Refugee stories aren't so distant for Bakam Paljor, 17, a member of Salzman's class. Although he was born in California, his parents fled Bentiu, Sudan — now South Sudan — years ago. The United States is “like a new world” to refugees, Paljor said.
The United States poses a new set of challenges. Some people have spent 20 or more years in refugee camps. Some haven't ever flipped a light switch or flushed a toilet, Salzman said.
Soon a family from across the globe will move into the house. And in the years to come, the students will carry what they've learned into the world.