24 Jul 2015
It was an eye-opening trip, one that changed Omar Shawaf’s perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis.
He signed up for a three-week volunteer mission in May that sent him to Al Salam School in Reyhanli, Turkey. The school serves Syrian refugee children, and Shawaf said what he encountered was overwhelming.
“I felt heartbroken,” the McMaster University biology and pharmacology student said.
With too few resources for too many students, the school operates in “deplorable” conditions.
“It was very sad to see many aspiring students turned away simply because the school had no funds,” Shawaf said.
Now, he’s trying to be part of the solution.
Shawaf helped organize Talent for Syria, a Saturday fundraiser aimed helping Al Salam. Local and international musicians — some from as far away as Algeria — will compete for top honours at the talent show. It runs from 5 to 11 p.m. at The Meeting House in Oakville.
The goal is to raise at least $100,000 in support of the school, which has 2,100 students and 91 teachers, Sawaf said.
“These people don’t care one bit about politics,” he said about refugees and their concerns. “All they need is peace, food and medical treatment.”
Many of the children at the school were orphaned by the war in their home country, witnessing atrocities that continue to haunt them and affect their ability to succeed.
“One of my Grade 2 students had trouble sleeping,” Sawaf said.
“When we talked to her, she narrated how she was there when her parents were hit by a bomb and their bodies broke into a million pieces.
“(It’s) absolutely devastating.”