Chang School student and Syrian refugee Muhammed Aboura speaks to a sold-out dinner in support of Ryerson's Lifeline Syria Challenge

PHOTO: DYLAN FREEMAN-GRIST

Charity dinner adds spark to Ryerson’s Syria initiative

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By Dylan Freeman-Grist

A Ryerson campaign to assist those fleeing war-torn Syria received a boost Friday night.

The conference room overlooking Mattamy Athletic Centre ice was packed Oct. 23, with student leaders, alumni and community members for a charity dinner in support of the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge.

The Lifeline initiative, which kicked off in late July, is looking to mobilize the Ryerson community in order to privately sponsor 75 families, roughly 300 individuals, from Syria so they can settle in Toronto.

The night featured a variety of speakers, including former Syrian refugees, a spoken-word poet, and various student leaders. Faculty supporters, such as Ted Rogers School of Management, Dean Steven Murphy, were also in attendance.

“I think seeing the diversity in this room is a reminder of what we can do when we harness the energy and enthusiasm of youth,” Murphy said to the crowd.

All attendees paid $20 or $50 dollars a plate to attend. All proceeds from ticket sales, donations and an auction raised $8,100. The total was brought to $15,100 with a donation from the office of Ryerson Provost Mohamed Lachemi.

“All of the student groups we contacted, they were completely supportive of [the event] they wanted to help in anyway that they could so it came from just doing outreach and being hands-on,“ said Anuja Jeeva, a third-year sociology student who helped bring together 14 student groups to make the event a success. She co-hosted the night alongside Muslim Students Association President Radwan Al-Nachawati.

“It’s a humanitarian problem, it’s not a problem that exists for one people or one religion … it’s the worst humanitarian problem of its kind since World War Two,” Al-Nachawati, a third-year marketing student, said in reference to the Syrian crisis.

Both Al-Nachawati and Jeeva noted that the event, though a means to fundraise, was also intended to boost awareness of both the issue and the need for more volunteers to make the Ryerson initiative a success.

Aside from financial aid, these Lifeline projects also aim to provide services to Syrian refugees once they touch down on Canadian soil. Ryerson’s initiative will pair students with refugees in order to address certain needs. Business students, for example, are preparing to help set up bank accounts, while political science students are preparing to assist with explaining governance in Canada.

Muhammed Aboura immigrated to Canada with the assistance of a single private sponsorship similar to the program Ryerson is looking to replicate on a larger scale. He spoke at the event about his experiences settling in Canada after an odyssey from Syria, through the middle-east and Malaysia, before he found a home in Toronto.

“The only thing I was eating was bread, chicken broth and water, I literally had no money,” Aboura, now taking psychology courses part-time through the Chang School, recalls of his time before coming to Canada.

“It means a lot to me that people who don’t have personal connections with Syria are reaching out.”

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