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Change for change: Staples students present and fundraise for the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Staples alum Megan Laney speaks about her experience studying abroad at the University of Aleppo in early 2011 alongside a presentation of the photos she took while there.

By Alice Hickson ’17 and Becky Hoving ’17


Social Studies teacher Cathy Schager’s two Contemporary World Studies courses are fundraising for Syria, as well as presenting a documentary and having a question-answer session, January 25 and January 26 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Staples High School library.

The event, which also hosted three guest speakers, was born out of the students’ drive to make a positive difference in Syria after viewing the fall of Aleppo on December 16, 2016.

“We were watching the tweets come in live in class, and then they were actually on the news that night,” Schager said. “The kids came in the next day and said ‘What do we do?’ and here we are.”

The ten-minute documentary the class presented gave an overview of the origin of the crisis, as well as the magnitude of the current state of Syria, and will be posted on their Facebook page, SHS Change for Syria, later this week.

In the weeks leading up to the event, the class fundraised under the slogan “Change for Syria,” asking students to drop a quarter here and there on there way to the cafeteria. As of the first presentation on January 25, they had raised over $1300 to be donated to NuDay Syria, a New England based non-profit that works to provide relief to Syrians, especially women and children.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to pull this together,” Julia Ethier ’17, a student in the course, said. “But we’re all really proud of not only how much money we’ve raised, and the documentary we’ve made, but of what we’ve learned.”

The students, along with Schager, fielded questions about the crisis and the current status of refugees in the U.S.

Schager warned of the overpopulation in refugee camps in the countries closest to Syria, and how other countries, like those in Eastern Europe and the U.S., are handling the crisis. “You see doors closing in places that are supposed to be the most welcoming. That whole populist movement that has been very successful is spreading even farther. The doors are closing and more people are knocking,” she said.

In addition to the documentary and presentation by the students, Megan Laney, a Staples alum, spoke of her experience studying abroad at the University of Aleppo in early 2011, right as the Syrian crisis was beginning to unfold.

Laney has been teaching English to the Syrian refugee family, Mohamed, Nour and their two young children, who moved to Norwalk last July. Nour and the children were also in attendance as Nour spoke in Arabic to Laney, who translated for the audience, about her experiences, .

“She is very grateful for what everyone has done and wishes every refugee could have the same hope she now has,” Laney said when translating for Nour. The last guest speaker to talk was Save the Children representative Abby Safirstein, who spoke of her experiences visiting a refugee camp in Jordan.

While the course, which is a one semester elective, came to an end, Schager and her students noted that they hoped to continue their efforts to aid Syria in the future. “Tonight is just the tip of the iceberg,” Schager said.

This event is open to the public as well as the Staples community.

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