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Syrian Student Fundraises for Humanitarian Aid

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By Michelle Chahine

"I don't think there's a quick solution ... So, at least international organizations should move more to get humanitarian aid to Syria." -- Haya Dweidary (MIA '12)

The Arab Student Association held a bake sale at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) on Thursday, February 16, led by a Syrian student, Haya Dweidary (MIA '12). They had a large variety of Syrian cuisine, donated by the expat community in New York. The lunchtime event aimed to raise money to Homs, the Syrian city that has faced a large brunt of the ongoing conflict, for families who need shelter and food.

"You know, the humanitarian situation in Syria is terrible," said Dweidary. "That's why there's been networks of Syrians abroad trying to send money and aid."

She described how other Syrians in New York, and at Columbia, are holding small events like concerts or exhibitions to raise what money they can. "We're trying to do these little things ... There are people raising money, but getting it there is the hassle."

The money raised by Thursday's event (approximately $1,000) will be sent to Homs through an informal network, starting with the National Alliance for Syrians in New York, who well send it to Dubai, where it will be sent to Damascus, and on to Homs.

"It feels really bad to be away from home. It feels really guilty," said Dweidary. "So I do what I can to help, even if it's a little bit, to feel I'm contributing."

Before the sale began, Dweidary said she didn't expect to raise too much money, but any little bit counts. "People are dying because of $2 or $3," she said. "It's really insane ... For example, you know, if you're wounded, you can't go to a hospital. You'd be killed. People are setting up clinics in their homes. So we are trying to raise money to send basic medical supplies."

She added that the last thing she wants is for her country to go into a civil war, but there seems to be no quick alternative.

"We know it's a long struggle," she said, adding: "The Russian veto was like a green light like 'go ahead and kill more people.' At least that's what we feel like. It needs to get more attention. There needs to be lobbying for the cause. We need people to do something about it ... At least, international organizations should move more to get humanitarian aid."

The United Nations General Assembly voted today to pass a resolution condemning the Syrian Regime. Though a non-binding resolution, it is the first real international effort calling on President Bashar Al-Assad to resign, and, many argue, the first step in acknowledging -- and perhaps even mobilizing aid for -- the humanitarian crisis in the country.