Raising Awareness: The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Shot of panel members (from left to right) Mr. Alsaleh, Mr. Friesen, Mrs. Sabar

Thursday, January 28th marked the date of St. George’s Syrian Refugee Panel where the students and staff were treated to an hour up close with four inspirational guests. The panel consisted of Mohammed Alsaleh and Danny Ramadan (both of whom are Syrian refugees), Chris Friesen (a business manager working to enhance settlement services in Vancouver), and Karimah Es Sabar (Vancouver mogul, CDRD president and CEO). The presentation consisted of the panel members responding to various questions posed by the Saints community.

A crisis as severe as Syria’s is inevitably going to receive substantial media attention at a worldwide level. To better understand the situation: three in four Syrians are living in poverty, an estimated forty years of human development has been lost in Syria, and the estimated total economic loss (per 2013) is $143.8 billion. With over three million Syrian refugees and counting, a resident Vancouverite might wonder how this ties into their daily life and what he or she can do to contribute.

The panel was remarkably well-received, showcasing a tasteful balance of engaging, relevant information such as what one can do to make a difference in such a large-scale crisis; however, it was Mr. Alsaleh and Mr. Ramadan who unveiled what is often forgotten in regards to the Syrian refugee crisis; how every refugee has an individual story to be told.

Alvin Tsuei (11), an organizer and emcee of the event, spoke to “the emotional and personal side of the conflict that many of us seem to be underexposed to.” Alvin went further to credit the panel session as an “awe-inspiring experience” explaining that “some of their words, expressing wistfulness or regret about Syria, really struck [him] deeply.”

Regardless of one’s personal opinion of the conflict, the Syrian refugee panel left all in attendance better equipped to understand and take action in the pressing issue. On top of donating towards local refugee settlement initiatives, when asked how students can contribute to the situation Mr. Ramadan encouraged members of the community to help demystify the crisis by meeting Syrian people, learning Syrian culture and further understanding that Syrian refugees are no different than anyone else.

I have never seen anything like this prior coming to Saints this year, and it’s really satisfying seeing that the school administration is trying to raise awareness to on-going problems overseas.”

-Michael Hua (11)