By Jennifer Khil, May 24 2017 —
The University of Calgary Student Refugee Initiative (SRI) held their second annual charity dinner at Foothills Medical Centre for Doctors Without Borders (DWB) on May 20. Proceeds went to DWB’s Syria Emergency Appeal.
Third-year chemical engineering student Saad Khantürkoğlu and biological sciences graduate Deborah Nguyen co-founded the SRI in 2015. They organized this year’s event to raise funds for DWB’s work in Syria and bring awareness to the plight of refugees.
“There are certain misconceptions surrounding refugees. We try our best to clear up these misconceptions, so we aim to educate the public as well as spread awareness that refugees very much deserve a humble place within our society,” Nguyen said.
Khantürkoğlu said he hoped the event would help attendees relate to refugees, in contrast to media portrayals that he said dehumanizes refugees.
“Primarily, we wanted to humanize the refugees, but also to lift the focus from what you see in the headlines every day — of refugees migrating to the Western Hemisphere in general — and refocus onto their suffering as victims of warfare and show that they are more similar to us than dissimilar,” Khantürkoğlu said.
Five guest speakers shared their personal experiences, from immigrating to Canada to serving as a medical aide in a war-torn nation. Among them was Dr. Reza Esaghian, a physician who serves with DWB.
“It’s nice to see here in Calgary a local initiative recognizing a need for more awareness of refugees and migrants around the world,” Esaghian said. “It is bringing issues that are global and sometimes seem very far away in people’s minds right to us and showing us that we can do something.”
Esaghian added that individuals in Calgary have the ability to help those in need in all parts of the world without leaving the city.
“The one thing I would want people to know is that there is a lot of need. There is a lot of suffering, but there is a lot of good being done, and most importantly, you don’t have to go there to be part of the solution,” he said. “You can support it from home by being politically aware of it and by financially donating to it.”
Roughly 170 people attended the event. Last year’s event raised about $5,700 in donations.