by Armon Lotfi '20
During the last two years, I have been fortunate enough to be part of the Project Turquoise youth committee. As a branch of Project Turquoise, the youth committee consists of students from schools around the DMV who strive to raise awareness and support individuals and families affected by conflicts and natural disasters around the world. Meetings are held on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to discuss fundraising opportunities and service trips. Over the last three years, the youth committee has focused on the displacement of Syrian refugees. The committee multiple fundraisers including a 5k run, bake sales, car washes, movie screenings, and CAVA outings. Most of these funds were donated to Relief International (a registered NGO), who would in return provide appropriate resources to the refugees, especially children. Also, in collaboration with Relief International we were able to contact our peers living in Jordan’s Camp Zaatari, creating a relationship that still exists today. As we communicated with the kids in the Camp via Skype, we designed scientific experiments designed to not only be fun but also informative.
This past June, the certain members of the youth committee (unfortunately I could not make the trip), traveled to Camp Zaatari to meet and support our companions. Inside the refugee camp, committee members played soccer, painted, danced, and sang with their Syrian peers, fostering an invaluable relationship that will never be severed. Both parties participated in a cultural exchange by teaching each other song and dance from back “home.” Committee members were astonished by the enormity of the camp spanning 2 miles. Families of six live in small tents and are rationed 1 tub of water per week. Despite their circumstances, these refugees are hopeful. They have dreams and aspirations: they want to be doctors, teachers, and students. As the committee members were saying their goodbyes, one of the refugees gave a committee member a souvenir from his closet, a Real Madrid jersey. He told him he was giving him the jersey so he would remember him. These refugees not only need supplies and resources, but more importantly recognition from the world around them. They want to know that we are here for them and will be in the future.
Going into their trip to Camp Zaatari, the members expected to teach, guide, and mentor their companions; however, the opposite occurred. As the trip concluded, they realized that the refugees influenced them more than they impacted the refugees. The members were taken aback by the hope, happiness, and hospitality of their hosts. Now, as the committee moves forward, we are creating scholarships for the refugee children in order to help fund their education outside of the refugee camp and realize their dreams.