By Elizabeth Toy
The English as a Second Language (ESL) Club and English Department hosted a fundraiser for Syrian refugees Saturday at the Belvedere Park picnic area.
The event had more than 150 guests to enjoy food, games and raffles in order to raise awareness for Syrian refugees of the ongoing civil war and made more than $4,000.
Assistant professor and ESL adviser, Khetam Dahi is from Syria and took a significant role in organizing the fundraiser. “I wanted to do a fundraiser but I was kind of afraid,” Dahi said.
Initially apprehensive, Dahi said, “I feel like a lot of people don’t have the money to give and I didn’t want to overburden them. Also, being the only Syrian, I felt I would be begging.”
Both Dahi and her husband, Ayham, have family members who are still in Syria. “Some of them made it and some of them, we don’t know,” said Ayham. “My immediate family, so far, (is) staying (there), but they are looking for a way out because they know there’s no future. It’s not safe and the situation is getting worse by the day.”
Despite her initial doubts, Dahi was surprised to find donations for the Syrian refugees in her inbox the next morning. The response was so positive that she had already collected $1,400 even before the fundraising event.
“Our fundraiser was also an effort to inform our students about this dreadful crisis. We wanted our students to be caring world citizens, and to enlighten them to the plight of the Syrian people. The fact that we raised over $4,000 at the fundraiser is living proof of how caring and compassionate our ELAC community is,” English Department Chairperson James Kenny said.
Attendees competed in potato sack races, volleyball and badminton games before participating in the raffle. Among them were ELAC faculty, professors, ESL Club members and students.
“Miss Dahi mentioned in the classroom about what happened in the news about a lot of people dying every single day because they are trying to escape from Syria,” Vice President of the ESL Club and student Joanuen Llamas said.
Maxim Atalla and Benny Guardado of Los Domingos Mexican Restaurant generously catered the event, donating tacos, chips, salsa, rice and beans for lunch.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will be given to the World Food Program, a U.N. Organization that will deliver food to those affected by the conflict.
To make a donation online to help the Syrian Refugees, go to wfp.org.