At the end of November, approximately 1,500 Syrian refugees will arrive in Surrey, and the UFV Arab club wants to help them get settled into their new lives. From November 21 until December 4, the Arab club is spearheading a donation drive on campus to collect clothes, toys, household items, and other necessities for newly arrived refugees.
Arab club president Aziz Alfadel and vice-president Kinga Williams say all donations will go to the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre (MEFC), a volunteer initiative in Surrey that is preparing to assist the Syrian refugees when they arrive. Alfadel and Williams are the main organizers of the donation drive, assisted by the other Arab club members as well as the Muslim student club, and Alfadel says he hopes other student groups will also join them in promoting the donation drive.
“We always have fun in our club … so I think now is the time where people should get together to help others, not to have a good time for themselves,” says Alfadel.
Alfadel says that at least once a year, the Arab club takes on a project that benefits society; for example, in March of this year they helped raised funds for the Canadian Cancer Society by selling daffodils around campus. Now, the need of Syrian refugees has offered the club a new opportunity to help.
“Because we are Arabs and one of the main victims are Arabs … of course we are going to help them,” Alfadel says.
Williams says the conflict in Syria hits home for her; originally from Poland, the struggles Syrians are facing today remind her of the occupation of Poland in the Second World War.
“A lot of these people are fleeing their homes and trying to start a new life, and they don’t really know what’s expected,” Williams says. “Just getting them started off on the right foot would be really nice, and just showing them support and kindness, I think, is important.”
The donation drive is looking for “basically anything and everything,” says Williams, including good-condition clothes, furniture, children’s toys, cleaning supplies, and non-perishable food. Feminine hygiene products are also in high demand.
“Anything that people are willing to give, we’re more than happy to collect and then donate,” says Williams. She adds that both she and Alfadel have vehicles, and that they would be willing to arrange a time to pick up donations if people aren’t able to bring them to campus. The Arab Club is also collecting monetary donations through cash, Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, and email transfer, but Williams explains that rather than giving the money directly to the MEFC, financial donations will be used to fill in the gaps where they may need more items than they received.
“If we were not to get a lot of kids’ toys, maybe we could use that money to go out and buy kids’ toys,” she says.
Williams adds they have no set goal, but just aim to collect as many donations as they can over the next two weeks.
“Enough for a few families to get started would be awesome, but anything more than that would be fantastic,” she says.
Donations can be dropped off in room S2102A until December 4 at noon. The donation drive’s organizers can be contacted through the donation drive’s Facebook event page, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.