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Ohio State student organizations support Syrian refugees

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Members from the student organization Students for Refugees pose in front of the World Relief building, who they partner with to provide tutoring services to local refugees. Courtesy of Chelsea Bray

Members from the student organization Students for Refugees pose in front of the World Relief building, who they partner with to provide tutoring services to local refugees. Courtesy of Chelsea Bray

From clothing drives to tutoring sessions and mentorship programs, Ohio State student organizations such as the Syrian Student Union, Students for Refugees and Refuge: Empowering Adolescent Refugees are working to help those affected by the Syrian Civil War.

“A lot of people don’t know about what’s going on in Syria or outside Syria,” said Kenan Alzouhayli, president of the Syrian Student Union and a third-year in biochemistry. “So our first thing to do is to let people be aware that what’s going on there is not separate from what’s going on here. It’s one world.”

More than 4.7 million Syrians are officially registered as refugees, but millions more have been forced to abandon their homes in response to the ongoing civil war, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Many of these people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid assistance, and some OSU students are taking up the cause.

The Syrian Student Union works to do more than raise awareness about the ongoing Syrian conflict. Alzouhayli said that last semester, it hosted a clothing drive for displaced people within Syria, collecting enough clothes to fill two U-Haul trucks.

Currently, the Syrian Student Union is collaborating with OSU’s UNICEF club to organize a 5K race to raise money for refugees.

Like the Syrian Student Union, the organization Students for Refugees is also reaching out to the war-torn community. This organization partners with World Relief Columbus to tutor refugee children twice a week.

“We started tutoring Monday evenings with whatever they had that we could help them with,” said Chelsea Bray, president of Students for Refugees and a third-year in neuroscience. “But I feel like I leave learning more than I teach them.”

Bray said she was inspired to start the club this academic year after attending a Buck-I-SERV trip, during which she helped a refugee family move into a home in the U.S.

Bray said that the club hopes to expand its current program to offer more services, including a mentorship program, English as a Second Language classes, and move-in assistance for refugees arriving in Columbus.

The organization Refuge is a recent addition to OSU that sheds light on the Syrian conflict. A club in the making, Abd Al-Rahman Traboulsi, a third-year in biomedical engineering, said he is launching Refuge as a mentorship program to connect students at OSU with refugee students in the Midwest over an online interface, with the ultimate goal of introducing refugees to the possibility of higher education.

After working in refugee camps and field hospitals in Turkey for the past three summers, Traboulsi said he believes it is his responsibility to help Syrians affected by the ongoing conflict.

“(Refugees) are just like you are,” Traboulsi said. “You are just at different positions in life, and you are blessed to be able to help impact the community you work with.”

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