Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Students gather clothes to warm war refugees

Local youths driven to aid Syrians


Senior class president Hala Abou-Dahech, 18; senior class secretary Carla Cunningham, 17; treasurer Patricia Jones, 18; and vice-president Matthew Wilson, 18, from right to left, rest atop the bags of clothing they have been collecting for Syrian refugees.

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They’re many miles away from the shootings and the bombings and the refugee camps, but a group of Toledo students wants to help victims of the Syrian civil war.

Senior class officers from Toledo Early College High School, or TECH, led by class president Hala Abou-Dahech, held a clothing drive this week, collecting mostly winter items for Syrian refugees.

“They are the innocent people caught in between the war,” Miss Abou-Dahech said.

The students plan to sort the donated clothes this week, and their goal is to hand them over to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation, a Franklin, Mich., based nonprofit that organizes aid for victims of the conflict.

The Early College — which is a Toledo Public Schools magnet school — allows students to take 60 credits of college courses through the University of Toledo while in high school. The program is housed at UT’s Scott Park campus.

Miss Abou-Dahech is from Toledo, and her family is of Palestinian heritage.

She came up with the idea after seeing a similar drive at the Toledo Muslim Community Center on Sylvania Avenue, where she’s the president of the youth group. She and class secretary Carla Cunningham, treasurer Patricia Jones, and vice-president Matthew Wilson submitted donations from classmates, UT student groups, staff, and others. Students said TECH social studies teacher Randy Nissen asked for clothes from his church.

Even students at the school who come from low-income families pitched in, Hala said.

The Syrian conflict, which started with mostly peaceful demonstrations in 2011 against President Bashar Assad’s rule and has grown into a bloody civil war after deadly crackdowns on protesters, has left millions displaced both in Syria and in neighboring countries.

With winter coming, refugees who fled with few belongings will need warm clothes to survive the cold months. Clothes collected in the students’ drive will be sent to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation, who will then distribute them to Syrian refugees.

Much of the conflict has broken down along sectarian lines, with the majority Sunni Muslims supporting the rebellion and the Alawites backing Assad. But the Toledo clothing drives have been an interfaith and international effort, Miss Abou-Dahech and her classmates said, and a rejection of the divisive nature of the civil war.

“We are just doing something for the common good,”she said.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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