December 17, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers organizations raise over $1,200 for refugee children in the Middle East

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

Students and their families took part in "Miracles for the Middle East," a benefit banquet held to raise money and support free medical care for children in the Middle East.

Out of the 21.3 million refugees fleeing war zones or prosecution across the globe, approximately half are children. On Saturday, the Arab Cultural Club (ACC) and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) collaborated to produce "Miracles for the Middle East," a benefit banquet that was held at the Cook Campus Center.

The banquet was a social and philanthropic event that raised money to provide free medical care for children in the Middle East. Students and their families took part in the fundraiser, which featured free food, music, a guest speaker, a comedian and much more. 

Selsebil Akat, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the historian of the ACC, talked about why this year’s event was unique. 

“Usually we just raise money for one country specifically. For example, last year we focused on Syria. This year we wanted to expand and reach more people so we aren’t just focusing on one country. We decided to send our money to the whole Arab region," she said. 

She said it was important to work with another cultural organization to show that the ACC does not only fundraise for Arab countries. This was the first time that her club co-hosted an event like this. 

According to Akat, the collaboration was effective, it made the planning process easier and it was a lot of fun.

“We collabed with the Palestinian (Children's Relief Fund) because we really wanted to combine cultures for a good purpose," she said. 

The banquet’s proceeds are going to the national chapter of PCRF. According to their website, the PCRF is celebrating 25 years as a non-political, nonprofit organization dedicated to medical and humanitarian help to children in the Middle East. They have over 11 programs within their organization that target different specific causes, such as the Pediatric Cancer program in the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Children Relief Project.

Sara Sayed, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and the president of the ACC, said their guest speaker was a special part of the event. 

“Our guest speaker, Jenan Matari, was motivational," she said. 

Sayed said that Matari is the founder and editor-in-chief of the website Miss Muslim. The website's mission statement describes itself as “the internet home for third culture kids, the hyphenated millennials, and all who have felt the struggle of having to identify oneself for social acceptance."

The website is a place where people of all religions, but especially Muslims, can share their views about subjects like love, politics, religion, sex, fashion and other things, she said.

Sayed said that having such a strong advocate for marginalized groups at the banquet was moving, especially because Matari shared her own hands-on experience with refugees. After Matari’s wedding, instead of having a typical honeymoon, she told the banquet attendees that she used that time to volunteer with refugees in Greece. 

"Miracles for the Middle East" is just one of many events that the ACC hosts every year to show their support for the region. Sayed said that the ACC's biggest event of the semester is coming up quickly on Nov. 21. It is their 11th annual “Hafla," which translates to “party," from Arabic. Last year, this social event was a success and sold out, and she hopes the turnout will be just as significant this year. 

On Saturday, "Miracles for the Middle East" raised more than $1,200. Akat said she really felt like she was making a direct difference. 

“We think it’s very important for people to be aware of what’s going on. We believe that events like this encourage people to understand the Middle East more," Sayed said. “It was a lot of fun. We brought our clubs closer together, and we made a difference together."

Erica D'Costa

Erica D'Costa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in business administration and political science. She is an Associate News Editor @The Daily Targum. 

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