Volunteers with First Presbyterian Church in Wichita spent Saturday giving out 600 backpacks to refugees in preparation for the upcoming school year. 

Over 400 of the students were refugees from Afghanistan. Organizers said this year’s event was twice as big as previous years. 

“They choose their color which…who doesn't wanna pick their own backpack color?” Patrice Cummings with First Presbyterian Church said. “Then, we have the shoppers that know their grade, and they go through with them, and they pick up their additional supplies on the table.”

Cummings said nearly $15,000 worth of backpacks and school supplies were available Saturday. Another local church gave all the kids rides to First Presbyterian. 

“We feel like it empowers them and gets them more excited than someone just handing them a filled backpack,” Cummings said. 

There were 115 volunteers at the church’s Backpack Bash, including high school students Juliene Prospa and Jean Buyamungu who had both come as participants before. 

“I did in 2018, but at the time my English wasn't that good,” Buyamungu said. “They had to help, and now of course I can speak better, so I decided to start volunteering.”

Buyamungu said it’s an event he looks forward to every year. 

“Just getting the kids to experience,” Prospa said. “Most of them were smiling. Like, ‘Oh, I wanna go back to school.’” 

The church is giving any extra backpacks and school supplies to Wichita Public Schools for any future refugees. Cummings said almost 100 more are expected to arrive in Wichita by the end of September. 

“We want the refugees in our community to feel the social justice and the welcoming and really don't want them to be treated like the other,” she said. “They're part of us. Now they're part of our community, so let's make them feel welcome.”