Cal Poly Pomona’s Muslim Students Association has partnered with the Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center to collect donations for Syrian refugees resettling in the Pomona, Claremont and San Diego areas.
Donated items can include clothing, shoes, household supplies, hygiene items, diapers and toys. Donations will be accepted until Nov. 23 and can be dropped off at APISC.
“I tell my Muslim friends that these are our brothers and sisters,” said Seireth Jawaid, a second-year biology student and fundraising director of MSA. “If they’re in pain and [in need of help], we should help them.”
The project came to Jawaid’s attention through Facebook, where she learned that more than 1,000 refugees were resettling in San Diego, prompting collaboration with her local mosque, the Islamic Center of Claremont, and its social services director, Mahmoud Tarifi.
“So basically when [refugees arrive], churches take them in and then the churches contact mosques so they [could help] with housing,” said Jawaid. “One of my friend’s dad [Tarifi] who works at the mosque has been helping these refugee families to decrease their rent.”
Jawaid has so far met with four families in the Claremont area to supply donated items.
With more than 4.5 million civilians having fled Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011, coupled with an additional 6.5 million displaced inside the war-torn country, the Syrian refugee crisis serves as one of the largest migration catastrophes in recent history, according to BBC News.
In what began with the Arab Spring uprising and 2010 Tunisian Revolution of pro-democracy protests to overthrow an autocratic president, the unrest in Syria calling for democratic governance descended into civil war when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad violently repressed protestors calling for his resignation.
“This is a humanitarian issue and it is so important for students on campus to understand what is happening around the world and in our country,” said Jawaid.
She also weighed in on lengthy immigration procedures to get into the states, citing four- to five-year processes that have resulted in the loss of family members.
“The family that I met on Sunday is actually a family of 12 and now only six are here,” said Jawaid. “The other six, they don’t know where they [are]”they’re scattered all over places in Jordan and Syria.”
“I also met with another refugee family . . . with two kids. They showed nothing but kindness [and] love to us. They also smiled when they talked to us. I can’t even imagine the pain they had experienced and continue to experience, yet they smiled and were so peaceful,” added Jawaid.
Items the APISC currently needs most are toiletries and items not covered by food stamps, such as laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap, towels, blankets and shampoo.
“When I was approached by MSA it made sense to collaborate with them and provide the space,” said Thavery Lay-Bounpraseuth, coordinator of APISC. “It made sense of our space being inclusive.”
She acknowledged how seemingly daunting it would be to take on such a formidable crisis.
“What’s needed are the basics that we often take for granted,” said Lay-Bounpraseuth.
“It could be overwhelming, but it’d be less overwhelming if you think about how you can help one family at a time.”