Raising awareness about the escalating global refugee crisis was the aim of Penn State Lehigh Valley senior Saima Farooq in organizing Refugee Awareness Day, an event that drew more than 70 students, faculty and staff on March 1 at the Lehigh Valley campus.
Farooq, who is majoring in information sciences and technology, spent nearly half a year organizing this daylong program, securing speakers from and/or with experiences from all over the world.
“I silently watched the refugee crisis unfold and felt helpless. I then thought of my experience working as an ESL teacher with a local refugee and how impactful that was on both of us,” said Farooq. “I realized education is the best way to raise awareness and build empathy about the refugee crisis, and Penn State Lehigh Valley helped me achieve that.”
“Saima used her Penn State education, connections, and community service experience with refugees, to almost single-handedly organize an event for our entire community about a global humanitarian crisis we should all be concerned about. Penn State’s mission is to 'make life better' and Saima exemplifies the way our newest leaders are defining this mission in our modern time period. Saima started a legacy that we hope to continue here at PSU-LV," said Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, who facilitated the event planning.
The event featured five speakers, including Denise Ogden, professor of marketing at Penn State Lehigh Valley; Brigitte Khoury, associate professor and clinical psychologist of the Psychiatry Department at the American University of Beirut; Kevin Meadowcroft of the Danish Refugee Council; Ken Sofer, policy and planning officer of the International Rescue Committee (IRC); and Khawla Nasser AlDeen, intern for the International Association of Applied Psychology of the United Nations. David Livert, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Lehigh Valley and United Nations representative served as a moderator.
The event opened with Doug Hochstetler, interim director of academic affairs at Penn State Lehigh Valley, who provided introductory remarks. Ogden followed and explained how the government does not allocate their resources to provide sufficient resources for refugees. Instead, the government relies on private organizations to provide resources, which are limited.
“It costs one billion dollars to maintain refugee camps in Bangladesh, and more than 60 percent of these refugees are children,” said Ogden. “Refugees want to help their families, but because of the limited resources, some resort to selling their organs on the black market to sustain themselves.”