Muslim student groups’ clothing drive aims to provide relief for Syrian refugees

A box outside of the Muslim Student Association’s 

cubicle in Hearst Gym takes donations for refugees.
Anthony Bongco/Staff
A box outside of the Muslim Student Association’s cubicle in Hearst Gym takes donations for refugees.

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Campus and community organizations gathered blankets and clothing over the past three weeks to donate to Syrian refugees displaced due to the ongoing conflict in the country.

UC Berkeley Muslim Student Association and the United Muslim Relief chapter at Zaytuna College collected at least 100 bags filled with new and gently used items during the drive, which ended Sunday night, according to UC Berkeley sophomore Aafreen Mahmood, co-community service committee head of MSA. They also received more than $2,100 in donations as of Monday night.

The drive is part of a national effort by the nonprofit organization United Muslim Relief to gather blankets and winter clothes, especially children’s clothing, for Syrian refugees.

“I was honestly blown away,” said Abass Darab, a community organizer for United Muslim Relief’s Zaytuna chapter.“(The drive) went a lot better than a lot of us expected.”

The event, publicized through social media and word of mouth and at religious centers, was the first collaborative effort between MSA and United Muslim Relief’s Zaytuna chapter. Darab added that the organizers were interested in seeing how supportive the UC Berkeley community would be in expanding the chapter’s efforts in the future.

Mahmood said she was surprised at the community support for the drive, noting an instance in which one of the parents at her mosque slipped $100 into her hand as a donation.

“I teared up and, with God’s help, I knew (the drive) was going to succeed,” Mahmood said. “This is our way of helping them and perhaps answering the refugees’ prayers.”

The organizations spread their efforts across the Bay Area, in Muslim community associations from Pleasanton to Santa Clara. Other universities, such as UC Irvine and the University of Washington, have sponsored similar events.

The bags of donations are being stored at the Berkeley Masjid, a local mosque, until the United Muslim Relief national organization picks them up Wednesday.

Volunteers are in the process of organizing the donations in preparation for transport to the organization’s headquarters in Virginia, according to UC Berkeley junior and UMR West Coast Logistics Coordinator Hanna Jalanbo.

From there, UMR will try to distribute the blankets and clothing among refugees in Syria. If they are unable to enter the country, the items will be donated to refugees in Turkey, Jalanbo said.

For students with family in Syria, the efforts of the drive hit closer to home. UC Berkeley junior Banah Ghadbian, who has several cousins seeking refuge in Lebanon and Jordan, said that conditions in refugee camps are “deplorable” and that children are often the most affected by displacement.

“(The drive) helps not only in the physical sense but helps psychologically uplift people because it shows other people in the world care,” Ghadbian said.

Contact Michelaina Johnson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hanna Jalanbo is the west coast logistics coordinator for UC Berkeley’s Muslim Student Association. In fact, she is the west coast logistics coordinator for United Muslim Relief.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that UC Berkeley junior Banah Ghadbian has family members seeking refuge in Lebanon and Georgia. In fact, Ghadbian has family members seeking refuge in Lebanon and Jordan.