Students Develop Website to Help Refugees Locate Shelter


Sydney Wolfe

Brock Purnell (12) and Shawn Jahangiri (12) recently created Refugee Connection, a website that offers direct assistance to refugees around the world and provides them with a safe way of integrating into the country.

Seniors Shawn Jahangiri and Brock Purnell, recently founded the program Refugee Connection to offer direct assistance to refugees around the world. In hopes of aiding the world’s refugee crisis, they created the website as a resource for refugees to locate safe places to stay. 

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Jahangiri and Purnell began the program in May to battle anti-immigrant views and provide individuals and families with a safe way of integrating into the country. 

“During the beginning stages of the invasion, we saw a lot of people close to us say, ‘what can we do? There’s nothing we can do. We just have to show our support and provide information.’ We thought, ‘what if there is something we can do? What if there is something everybody can do to actually help ease the process?’” said Jahangiri. 

While the seniors began developing Refugee Connection, they struggled to find people to help design their website. However, through a college admissions counseling program, Jahangiri met and contacted Andrew Sada, a fifteen-year-old coder from Connecticut, who was excited to help. With Sada’s help, the students could code the website and launch the program. 

Because of the discrimination and racial bias they saw in the media about refugees, Jahangiri and Purnell want their website to serve as a global resource that can assist anyone in need of a safe place to stay. 

Our goal, beyond housing refugees, would be to humanize them”

— Shawn Jahangiri

“In the media, we saw a heavy focus on Ukraine, and barely any coverage for Syria, a crisis that has been going on for a long time. But suddenly, when Russia invaded Ukraine, that became the main focus,” says Jahangiri. 

Refugee Connection offers listings with different capacities and stay durations. Anyone can list rooms, apartments, or houses they have that are vacant for individuals or families to stay at. By creating a log-in on the website, anyone is welcome to submit available listings to be authenticated and published.

The students hope to see real, long-lasting effects as the program continues to grow and gain more publicity. They strive to offer a solution that can encourage systemic change and help inform people about refugee crises around the world. 

“Our goal, beyond housing refugees, would be to humanize them. When you hear about the refugee crisis, you hear a certain number of people. We want to humanize them and show that every statistic is actually a life,” said Jahangiri. “Those people have individual needs, and they have their own families. You can actually do something to help them.”