More than 10 million Syrians are estimated to have fled their homes in the wake of the deadly civil war raging in the country. As many as 6.5 million of those are displaced in the country itself, with over 4 million trying to find homes elsewhere across the Middle East and Europe.

As Syrian refugees reach European borders, they are finding new obstacles. European countries, like Hungary, are building fences and halting the migration of many refugees.

West Virginia University student chapters of OXFAM and UNICEF, together with the Department of Geology and Geography, are launching a wave of initiatives to help raise awareness of this global problem. The campaign, called the WVU Syrian Refugee Campaign, will feature tables set up across the WVU campuses beginning Wednesday, Oct. 1 with information, petitions and fundraising opportunities.

Pens will be available across campus, an item that echoes the recent story of a Syrian man who was found selling pens to provide for his family during their struggle to find a new life. The story went viral, with $190,000 donated from readers across the world to the man’s family.

A panel session Oct. 7, “Making Sense of Refugee Crises,” will explore the larger issue of refugee situations around the world. Though Syrian refugees are currently in the news, organizers pointed out that there are many refugee situations happening elsewhere. The panel, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.

Karen Culcasi, associate professor of Geography, has been working with Syrian refugees in Jordan for two years. She has documented the daily and long-term challenges of displacement as well as the resilience and strength of the refugees.

“By raising awareness on campus, we hope to humanize the refugee crisis” Culcasi said.

For those who are unsure how they can help, the campaign is an excellent place to start.

“With such a large amount of displaced people, it can be difficult to know where to start or who to help. This campaign is a beginning,” said Cynthia Gorman, assistant professor of Geography and Women’s and Gender Studies, whose research examines refugee and asylum law.

International attention and social media focus has accelerated after media outlets in September printed and broadcast a photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned three-year old Syrian boy – an example of the devastating consequence of the journey that many must undertake in the quest for safety.

Campus efforts are being coordinated by student leaders OXFAM and UNICEF, senior international studies and geography major Amanda Stoner and senior psychology major Rebecca Speer. Culcasi and Gorman have been advising these efforts.

The campaign will continue to host events throughout the fall semester and include bake sales, a fast-a-thon, documentary film screenings and guest lectures.



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Marketing and Communication, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University,

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