Many UMaine students are, by now, aware of the refugee crisis raging on in Syria and Palestine. And it’s easy for students to feel as though they cannot make a difference, sitting are thousands of miles away with their own responsibilities to uphold. Well, the University of Maine Honors College has a solution.
A donation collection has been set up in the Student Union for the past two weeks and will continue into this coming week. New or slightly used clothes (all seasons), winter jackets, hats and gloves, shoes, winter boots, feminine hygiene products, bedding, paper products (cups, napkins, plates, cutlery, etc.), baby diaper boxes and sleeping bags are all suggested donations being collected by members of the Honors College. The donation bins are accompanied by an Honors College member passing out flyers and educating interested passersby. They are also looking for cash donations, which will be used to pay for shipping.
The project is the brainchild of Aliya Uteuova , a Maine Campus staff writer, Honors Student Advisory Board member and Kazakhstan native. She coordinated a similar donation drive last semester, which produced a truck-full of clothing shipped to Jordan and Lebanon. She brought the idea to the Honors College this semester in hopes of coordinating an even more successful drive this spring.
“[The] refugee crisis is a huge international/humanitarian problem, and the Honors College strives to help whatever causes it can…[and the] Honors College does everything it can to support its students’ endeavors,” Jack Brown, a second-year psychology and sociology honors student, said about the endeavor.
The Honors College partnered with Student Government and Helping Hand For Relief and Development for the project and has been met with support by everyone involved.
“[Helping Hand] is a global relief and development agency that provides resources and aid to places around the world that are in emergency or disaster situations,” Abby Bellefleur, a fourth-year communications honors student , said. “Currently their focus is on helping Syrian refugees, in light of current events.” The organization plans to drive to Maine from its Massachusetts location, pick up the donations and ship them in containers to refugee camps in Syria and Palestine.
Bellefleur has helped out by passing out flyers and tabling as much as she can to encourage donations. “What’s really interesting, and also important, is that they take all the different items and set up a shop where Syrian people can come and pick out the items they want,” Bellefleur said. “It helps them retain some of their dignity and sense of self, considering the situation they’re in.”
The success of the project has been evident, according to the group’s members. “Projects like these really show the best of what can be accomplished when different groups work together under a common goal,” fourth-year business management and sustainable food systems honors student Brady Davis said. “We have received support from UMaine Student Government, members of Greek Life and by people who have made individual donations. The success of our project has come from the willingness of others to partner with us and help further on our mission to provide aid to refugees in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.”
Bellefleur could not agree more, as she noted that members of the Honors College have enlisted the help of their other students groups to help the cause. Alpha Tau Omega, CASE and even Dean of Student Life Dr. Robert Dana have shown support.
So for those who feel powerless in the face of the Syrian refugee crisis, especially in today’s sociopolitical environment, donating what you can makes a difference. Whether it’s a few old sweaters that you’ve outgrown, or leftover change from a lunch bought at the Student Union, small donations can make a world of a difference in the life of a refugee.
The Honors College will continue to table with collection bins in the Student Union until Wednesday, Feb. 15.