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SUPRA: Helping Refugees in the Syracuse Community

SUPRA: Helping Refugees in the Syracuse Community

While his friends are probably out partying, Daniel Haverty spends his Friday nights at North Side Learning Center helping refugees. Daniel volunteers at SUPRA, Syracuse University Program for Refugee Assistance.

Daniel is enthusiastic about helping refugees. As a law student in his last year at Syracuse University, Daniel has dealt with many conflicts involving refugees. There are more than 10,000 refugees living in Syracuse, which is nearly seven percent of the population here. “I also worked for a national legal organization and took issues on refugees. Naturally I found passion on it,” he said. 

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Daniel and his peers in SUPRA offer various classes, such as English, personal finance and citizenship for refugees. As a group director, Daniel keeps busy every Friday night, “I need to make sure everything goes right,” he said. 

SUPRA is now assisting 150 refugees from more than 39 countries. Many refugees come in families. Most of them know SUPRA through word of mouth or information provided by government or community. “People come here three times a week as they have a strong will to learn,” said Haverty.

Salado Aben goes to North Side Learning Center three times a week. She is always excited about the 30 words she is about to learn in the evening class. After two months in SUPRA, Aben has notices progression in her pronunciation and spelling of words. But the pronunciation of the letter “r” still bothers her because she cannot get rid of the habit from her mother language.


Volunteer and refugee talking like friends at North Side Learning Center.

Learning is never easy for students, and teaching is more difficult. Level of English varies in one class. Some students cannot read while others do not comprehend or speak, Haverty loves his work. “I once used a picture of a beach with people running and playing volleyball. I explain to them what beach is, what sun is, what running is, what playing is. Later, my students can not only say these words, and even be able  to put these words together and complete sentences. That made me believe these people can do more,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to help everyone because we don’t have enough resources,” he said. There is still a long list of refugees waiting to attend the program. Haverty sometimes has to teach extra people a night because there are not enough volunteers.

But, things are getting better. This year, SUPRA received a fund from Syracuse University that has helped them provide supplies for classes. “Also, teachers from North Side Learning Center are helping us in classes now. We really appreciate that,” said Haverty.

Every year, SUPRA visits those who have benefitted from the program and who are now living a better life to learn from their experience.“They need a sense of belonging. We wish to see them pick their smiles back and live a better life here,” said Haverty. That is exactly what he and other SUPRA volunteers endeavor for.

About The Author

Mi Zhou

M.S. Candidate of New Media Management


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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