16 Oct 2015
Eastern Michigan University’s Middle Eastern Student Association is collecting donations for refugees, but the clothing, appliances, money and furniture gathered will not be sent overseas.
Donations to the organization will be divided among 23 Syrian families moving to Southeast Michigan.
MESA’s president, Layali Alsadah, said the students began organizing the drive as soon as they heard refugees would be resettling in the area. She said the items, which were specifically requested by the families, will ensure that the newcomers are prepared for winter.
“Our group works strictly on the humanitarian aspects coming out of any conflict involving the Middle East,” Alsadah said. “So the Syrian refugee crisis has been a focus of ours due to the constant increase in numbers and severity of the situation.”
Zaeem Zafar, MESA treasurer, said the best aspect of the drive is that the people who benefit “are going to be our neighbors.”
“Usually, when people donate for this kind of cause, we have to worry about sending all of the items collected overseas,” Zafar said. “Now, we’ll be able to go directly to those receiving the donations and make sure that they have everything that they need.”
MESA organized a similar drive last year for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The students put together 150 food and clothing supply boxes to send to the camp.
Alsadah said MESA is working directly with the families to help provide aid, which would allow them to focus on resettling.
“The strain caused by stress, trauma and having to rebuild your entire life impacts everything you do,” Alsadah said. “We want to ease some of the parent’s worries.”
In an effort to personalize the donations, MESA is using the lobby tables in the Student Center to give EMU students and faculty the opportunity to create cards, drawings and messages to send with the collected items.
“Because of the constant negative backlash that has been arising with the influx in refugee numbers, we wanted to show [the families] there is support here outside of just the groups working with them,” Alsadah said.
The drive will run until the last week of October. Donation boxes will be set up around EMU’s campus.