by Jennifer Sanguano
Due to the recent influx of refugees from Middle Eastern countries to the United States, Central Connecticut hosted “Bridging the Gap Between Refugees and CCSU.” CCSU students and members of both the Rotaract Club and the Muslim Student Association hosted the event to promote awareness of the humanitarian crises in the area, specifically in Syria.
Member of Rotaract Club at Central, Radeana Hastings, explained why this event is important for CCSU students, who can get involved and help with the crisis.
“The goal that we have is to have students get more knowledge on what the refugee crisis is. Through knowledge there’s power and through power you can help more people,” Hastings said at the event.
President of the MSA, Lina Allam, was a speaker at the event. Allam represented CT Anchor, an organization formed in 2016 by Connecticut students, whose mission is to support and provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to refugee camps.
According to CT Anchor, Greece became the entry point to Europe for Syrians, resulting in an estimated 60,000 refugees dispersed among camps only in Greece.
Allam said that her experience helping refugees in a camp in Greece inspired her to encourage others to learn more about the crisis.
“We want to educate students and people about the refugee crisis,” Allam said. “We also want to have programs where refugees are able to come here, even though there’s a lot of political issues allowing asylum beneficiaries to come into the United States. What we have been trying to do is work with our senators and our governors to allow asylum.”
According to the United Nations High Commissioner, about 189,300 refugees were resettled in 37 different countries in 2016. CT Anchor provides support to those that resettled in the U.S., specifically in the state of Connecticut.
“I’ve worked with those who have been resettled in Connecticut, providing them care, translators, taking them to the hospital and helping them assimilate into the culture,” Allam said.
CT Anchor members were able to travel to a camp in Greece in 2016 to provide humanitarian help. This is where Allam says students can help improve refugees’ lives.
“We did a lot. Something that we really brought to the table was that we spoke both English and Arabic, so we could translate,” Allam said. “Since some of us are medical students or doctors, we installed running water in the camps because what we noticed is that camps were completely isolated, so there was no running water.”
Integrated refugee immigrant services volunteer, James Angelopoulos, is a CCSU student who has been involved supporting refugees. He recommends students find their own way to help not only refugees, but other people in need.
“The best way to start is to find the right avenue. I never knew I was going to be helping charities and helping refugees until I found something I loved and connected it with a charity,” Angelopoulos said.
Allam emphasizes that there is a need for people to understand that for most refugees, being a refugee was not their choice.
“These are not people that had no jobs or who were homeless [or] who wanted a better life in the United States because they think it’s easier,” Allam said. “If you ask any of them, I think they will all say they would love to go back to Syria tomorrow.”
The Rotaract Club at Central meets every Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Mosaic Room in the Student Center.
For more information on how to help refugees, you can reach out to the MSA at Central or visit CT Anchor online at ctanchor.org.