Syracuse Refugee Series

Learn about the life of refugees in Syracuse with a walk and a Pakistani meal

Courtesy of Adam Sudmann

Among the tour stops is the teaching restaurant With Love, Pakistan on North Salina street, run by Sarah Robin, an Onondaga Community College student and refugee from Pakistan.

The 3rd Annual Syracuse University Program for Refugee Assistance, SUPRA, Walking Tour will take participants through a number of stops like the North Side Learning Center and Catholic Charities of Onondaga County on Friday to raise awareness of what it is like to be a refugee in Syracuse. Tickets are free but limited.

Gretchen Wesche, president and teacher coordinator at SUPRA, a volunteer organization for graduate students that serves the refugee population in Syracuse, said she was grateful to have experienced this a part of Syracuse through the walking tour.

“I think a lot of people, myself included, find it really difficult to get out of the bubble of campus,” Wesche said. “I’ll be completely honest, most of the time I leave campus, it’s to go home, get food or to volunteer with SUPRA.”

The walking tour will start at InterFaith Works of Central New York, a center helping refugees with resettlement, and go on to the North Side Learning Center, which promotes adult and youth literacy development. Wesche said this year an activity may be held at the North Side Learning Center to increase interaction.

The walking tour will then take participants through Catholic Charities of Onondaga County and Hopeprint, an organization that empowers refugees and helps them become productive members of society. The tour will culminate in a shared meal at With Love, Pakistan on North Salina Street, a teaching restaurant that’s currently run by Sarah Robin, an Onondaga Community College student and refugee from Pakistan.

The tour comes at no cost thanks to funds from SU’s Graduate Student Organization, but that’s not entirely the reason. Wesche said part of it is because they want people to come and learn, and that SUPRA doesn’t want its volunteers to have to pay to be celebrated.

“It’s important that people actually get a chance to visit the place and talk to the people who are either themselves refugees or have gone through the process, and now are giving back to the community or people who are working with them,” Wesche said.

This interaction turned to out to be more than valuable for some students like Hilary Swartwood, a student who graduated last year with a dual master’s degree in environmental studies from State University of New York of Environmental Science and Forestry and public administration from the Maxwell School.

Swartwood heard about last year’s tour from Wesche, and after experiencing that part of Syracuse, she decided to volunteer with SUPRA in the summer, saying that it was worthwhile.

“They showed us the classrooms, they went through the module they used to teach people English, and took us through it so we could experience it,” she said about last year’s tour. “There was also another community learning center where they tried to make it a family atmosphere, so you’d come in, they’d cook meals, have a discussion — kind of a safe space for people who have just come over.”

Adam Sudmann, owner of My Lucky Tummy, a pop-up restaurant series that showcases foods from the cultures refugees come from, and program manager at With Love, Pakistan, will be prepping dinner all day for the tour participants.

Sudmann said a tour is great way to see the neighborhood in its diverse entirety.

“I find the grocery stores in the North Side absolutely fascinating and energizing.” he said. “… people from wildly different backgrounds go shop at the same store. It’s a tiny little chance for where we all get to rub shoulders with somebody from somewhere else, or meet somebody from the same place. I find that incredibly satisfying.”

Both Wesche and Sudmann agreed the tour is beneficial for those who are interested and curious about people settling here as refugees in a neighborhood that’s got a lot of charm, but has also gone through a lot of struggles, Sudmann said.

The walking tour will be a walk in the shoes of the new Americans here in Syracuse, leaving participants with a different perspective at the end of the day.

Said Swartwood: “You can learn from everyone’s different experiences to kind of understand where they are coming from and see how their past experiences have affected them moving forwards and helped keep a positive attitude towards life.”

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