UNICEF at Baruch event draws attention to Syrian child refugees

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Members of UNICEF at Baruch educated students on the Syrian refugee crisis. Photo by Agata Poniatowski.

UNICEF at Baruch College hosted a tabling event on Sept. 15, raising awareness for the larger UNICEF “No Lost Generation” initiative.

Holding a large board that featured pictures of children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis—the initiative’s major focus—club members asked passing students “What did you dream of as a child?” Students were then encouraged to write down these dreams on the board next to the photographs of the children, ranging the gamut in seriousness from wanting to join the Air Force to wanting teleportation powers.

Understanding that all children have dreams is important, no matter their situation, asserts Sarah Dobrowolski, an industrial organizational psychology major and the vice president of marketing for UNICEF at Baruch. “This [event] is a way to create some unity across the world with kids that are younger than us but in our generation of dreamers.”

The “No Lost Generation” campaign stresses the value of youth and dreams, with UNICEF helping to support children inside of Syria, as well as Syrian refugee children living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The initiative focuses on education and child protection, trying to bolster the quality and accessibility of education while improving child protective services and methods for refugee children in these regions.

At Baruch, UNICEF is trying to raise awareness for the plights of these children. “UNICEF’s mission on campus is to advocate, educate and fundraise and so it’s really necessary that [students] know these children, care about them passionately and share their stories,” said Dobrowolski.

Dobrowolski briefly explained some of the backgrounds of the children featured at the event, turning a handful of faces on a board into a tapestry of stories and names. One refugee child in Jordan named Ammar is the sole provider for his family, selling dirt he digs up and going to school exhausted as a result. Maya, a nine-year-old refugee living in Turkey, dreams of becoming a religious studies teacher or teaching the Qur’an and of living in a world made entirely of cake.

“Personally, I think it is really important to know someone’s name and recognize they are human,” said Dobrowolski. “[The children here] aren’t just a statistic in another country…This is just honoring their humanity and dignity as humans and just hoping that they will pursue their dreams.”

Though UNICEF at Baruch is not as established as some of the longer-running clubs on campus, its work is already garnering attention from students. Fatoumata Diallo, an undecided major and a new member of the club, showcases the passion and dedication that goes into the work UNICEF at Baruch does, speaking about her desire to give back to other kids after being given the opportunity to leave the war zone of West Africa in which she grew up.

“Ever since I was a kid I was very passionate about helping kids. I actually grew up in a civil war,” said Diallo. “I grew up where there was a lot of poverty and watching that while I was growing up has really influenced me to join non-profit organizations like UNICEF to help those who are less fortunate than I am.”

Members of the club will also be volunteering at the “#ChildrenFirst Vigil” on Sept. 18, a UNICEF candlelight vigil at the United Nations that promotes child welfare.