September 16, 2019 | 74° F

Rutgers student founds non-profit group to aid underprivileged


Courtesy of Nainika Paul | Global Allies helps underprivileged children receive an education. The non-profit was founded by a Rutgers student after she took a trip to refugee camps in Afghanistan in 2011.

Global Allies, a non-profit organization, serves to provide educational resources to underprivileged children, specifically refugees, in the most impoverished areas of the world. 

The organization provides adequate educational resources in order for the children to have a free and lasting education.

Sahar Akbarzai, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, started Global Allies after visiting refugee camps in Afghanistan in 2011. Akbarzai was 16-year-old at the time and interviewed families and students living in refugee camps in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.

“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Akbarzai said.

She was exposed to a situation in a country where refugees were treated in a second-class manner. The people lived well below the poverty line, Akbarzai said. She was also interested in the children who lived in these camps.

The children allowed her to interview them and gave her a tour of their school, she said. Their school was a tent, with stones holding it down in place and multiple lamps lit up the room.

“It was a very depressing sight, but what astounded me was how determined and resolute these children were to go to school and attain an education,” she said.

Akbarzai is the daughter of Afghan refugees who immigrated to America in the late 1980s. Growing up, she felt a sense of unfairness, she said. She was born and raised in the United States and had the ability to go to school with the resources to move forward in life, but these children did not.

“Education has always been something important to me, I grew up learning of its values, and how it can fundamentally change and or improve one’s life,” she said.

Akbarzai wanted to be able to give that same opportunity to refugee children. But when she first created the organization, it was a huge responsibility and very daunting, she said. She had doubts people would not be interested in her organization.

But she was surrounded by people who supported her and believed in her mission, so the process became incredibly motivating, she said. 

“I feel lucky and blessed to have the support of my parents and an amazing team of campus representatives in universities across the country," Akbarzai said.

The ability to take on the creativity aspect of this organization and be able to put forth your own ideas and goals is new but exciting at the same time, she said. The process has been an amazing and very humbling learning experience. 

Global Allies is different from other organizations because their goal is to create a global solidarity movement with refugee children, Akbarzai said. 

“I think many Americans, especially in the millennial generation are tired of the hate and fear mongering some politicians have used against refugees,” she said. “Universities have always been the hotbeds of political and social movements (and) change, and we are hoping Global Allies can accomplish this at a national level."

Sameen Jafri, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, is a Rutgers University campus representative for Global Allies. She is responsible for running the organization’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Growing up, I had the value of helping those in need instilled in me,” she said.“I always wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world, whether that be by assisting Pakistani students adapt to their new environment after moving to America or volunteering in hospitals to help those with medical needs."

She was interested in this organization because it enabled her to provide other ambitious, young minds with the resources they need to make their dreams become a reality, she said.

Global Allies hosts an event called The Refugee Justice Initiative from April 11 to 15, Jafri said. The organization will be putting donation boxes in the Douglass, Busch and College Avenue Student Centers. They will also be having tabling sessions for people to take pictures with their hashtag and sign a petition, she said.

Global Allies is trying to pass a resolution, which recognizes the human worth of refugee children and their educational rights to Congress, she said.

“This resolution is important because with the current political climate surrounding the issue of refugees, (and) we must never forget that refugees are human and members of the international community,” Jafri said.

Nainika Paul, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, joined Global Allies in attempt to make an impact, after she heard the experiences of Akbarzai's grandparents. 

“It was such a heartbreaking story, and I thought this was a good way to make my mark by joining together for a global cause but doing it through the strength of local resources and student ideas,” Paul said.

Children's education in refugee camps should be a long-term goal and should have a specific budget within aid to refugee camps, especially in places like Afghanistan and Syria, she said. Global Allies is working in these areas of the world currently but would like to expand to other parts of the world, she said.

“Not many people actually realize that once we put refugees in camps it is not over,” she said.

Global Allies can only supply children with books, pencils and pens, but Congress can do so much more by starting to acknowledge the specificity of these issues and the need to create a program to deal with the issue of childhood education within camps, Paul said.

Rutgers students understand the importance of education and where it takes us in life, she said.

“If we have the ability to then help someone else who can not access the right to education then we must do it,” she said.

She said people never know if the next world famous artist, engineer, doctor, speaker or businessman is sitting in those camps, and they are not harnessing the amount of talent within themselves due to political, terrorist or abiotic factors.

“They are children, and it is not fair to them,” she said.

Jessica Herring is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in English. She is a staff writer at The Daily Targum. She can be found on Twitter @Jesslindsey93.

Jessica Herring

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