Several students from Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management served lunch to approximately 45 members from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Sept. 24, 2012.
The luncheon was part of a symposium on refugees that brought delegates from all over the world to Vive Inc. in downtown Buffalo, the largest refugee shelter in the United States. College students and culinary teaching assistants, along with Katie Finamore, director of experiential opportunities, prepared the meal, set up, served and cleaned up after the event. They were later treated to a tour of the Vive facility, which also includes a day care center, “teen room,” computer lab and dormitory-style housing.
According to senior Diana Zaccardo, “It was eye opening. I told all my friends and my parents how amazed I was because I had no idea we even had a place like this in Western New York. It made me realize how fortunate we are to be U.S. citizens and appreciate all that we have.”
Vive Inc. began in 1984 as a response to the many refugees coming from Central and South America seeking freedom. Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., were the founding “mothers” who saw the need to assist refugees in the area.
These 14 Women Religious communities took refugees into their convents until 1984, when one of the convents in Lackawanna, N.Y., was converted into “Vive La Casa” – “House of Life.” It was because of the great influx of refugees from Spanish-speaking countries that the “La Casa” name was attached to this “home-away-from-home.”
Today, Vive Inc. is found on the east side of Buffalo in a renovated school building. With 118 beds for men, women and children, the nonprofit organization offers food, clothing, shelter and legal assistance to refugees from around the world.