The International Humanitarian Crisis Initiative (IHCI), a campus organization founded last spring, has expanded membership this year and is working on both new and continuing projects to help alleviate the worldwide refugee crisis.
The group was co-founded by Anthoula Christodoulou and Yara Samman with help from businessman and unofficial advisor José Ramà³n Campos.
“Me and Anthoula have always been interested in helping out refugees and just helping out people who are very unfortunate. And so we were once talking about it and she suggested to start a fundraiser,” Samman said.
The two students realized that their ideas were too big to accomplish with just one fundraiser, and decided to start an organization that focused on refugees and other criseses.
They met Campos, who had spent the summer of 2015 in Lebanon, through Samman’s roommate.
“[Campos] made some contacts, especially with people who were creating a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” said Daniela Montufar, volunteer chair for IHCI.
The group has also started working with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit organization that works with refugees.
IHCI’s focus fills a gap in Trinity’s volunteer and fundraising community.
“I haven’t seen anything at Trinity, at least when I came, that dealt directly with refugees,” Samman said. “There is a lot of volunteering with homelessness, with great causes, poverty, but there weren’t any specifically for refugees, for asylum seekers.”
Despite the global nature of these issues, they can be found close to home. Montufar, who currently works at RAICES, explained that that organization is a perfect example of refugee issues reaching San Antonio.
“We sometimes think “˜For me to work on that, I have to go to the Middle East or even New York’. And we forget that we are actually located pretty close to the border with Mexico, and that border is one of the most transited in the world, if not the most,” Montufar said.
Refugees crossing the U.S. border are not coming from just Mexico and Latin America.
“We have people from Syria crossing the border, we have people from Ethiopia that maybe they don’t find a way into the U.S. but they find a way into Mexico or Central America, and they travel all the way up,” Montufar said.
IHCI has held a number of fundraising and awareness events this semester.
IHCI also held a Jeopardy fundraising event that raised about $700, as well as an information panel on refugee crises which was open to the Trinity community and the public.
“We’re hoping to keep on doing that every semester, I mean at least once or twice a semester,” Samman said of the panel.
ICHI has partnered with other campus organizations including Trinity Diversity Council, the Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-med society and the International Club.
Christodoulou explained that ICHI started with about ten members last spring, with about six who were very active. This year they have 25 very active members, with a much more extensive mailing list of people who are interested in the work of IHCI.
“This year we’re very excited because we had a lot of freshmen join. Last year it was kind of hard to recruit people, but this semester through the organization fair we got a ton of interest, and it’s great because we’re able to expand immediately and set our goals for the whole year,” Christodoulou said. “And it’s very exciting to see people who have never even been in the Middle East or have never encountered a refugee that want to help.”
Students interested in IHCI are encouraged to reach out to Yara Samman, Anthoula Christodoulou or Daniela Montufar.
IHCI is looking for new members interested in volunteering, fundraising or even initiating a new project. Those interested in joining should contact Yamman or Christodoulou.
“This is not just refugees,” Christodoulou said. “If you have a passion for anything, come to us “” and we’re more than happy to start a project, start a different committee if you want. We just want to help. This is about helping the community, helping people that are less fortunate than us.”