By Cassidy Slockett
Who says you can’t change the world during your time abroad?
While STAND (Students Taking Action Now in Darfur) initially began as an anti-genocide coalition at John Cabot University, its most important impact today is working with refugees at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. Student volunteers help these refugees by donating clothing, blankets, toiletries, and their time through activities such as teaching English lessons.
Omar Abdel Latif, the current president of STAND, had spent three years in Jordan before attending John Cabot University. Here, he helped refugees from Syria and Iraq who were trying to escape the threats of ISIS. As a result, when Abdel Latif came to Rome, it was impossible for him to turn a blind eye to the current refugee crisis here. By joining STAND, Abdel Latif has feels like he has gained maturity, confidence, and a sense of leadership.
While he was initially nervous to go to the refugee center, Abdel Latif quickly observed just how much his help was needed. “On Fridays, I usually go early to serve breakfast to the refugees at 8:30. When the other volunteers arrive on Friday around 9-9:30, the refugees get really excited. You can really see how much they rely on us. Sometimes they ask at what time the volunteers will arrive.”
You may remember the STAND book sale from earlier in the semester, in which STAND sells used books to students. Omar, with the help of the other board members, including Quinn Davenport, Sara Traylor, Zineb Sahiaoui, Rita Simone and Andrei Marcu raised around 10,000 euros. This money is being spent wisely, by renovating the refugee center, adding bookshelves, and buying clothing from OVS, a low budget department store.
“People come to the center for basic needs – food, clothes, and bathrooms. But they get a lot more than that. We have a movie room and the refugees often choose to watch comedy. Life isn’t about being sad all the time.”
In addition, as president of STAND, Abdel Latif assisted in creating this documentary about refugees in Rome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEKIj4-Vy9k&feature=share
If you are interested in volunteering with STAND, send an email to STAND@johncabot.edu or attend their Tuesday meetings at the Tiber campus in room T.G.4 during lunchtime.