Assyrian Chadean and Syriac Students Campain for Refugees
Students at universities around Ontario, including Ryerson, are spending the week sleeping outside to raise money and awareness for refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq and Syria.
Members of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada have been sleeping in front of McMaster and Ryerson to educate passersby and collect donations to help those living in refugee camps and difficult wartime conditions.
The "Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee" campaign had raised more than $4,000 in online donations by late Wednesday afternoon. The goal is $30,000.
The students outside Ryerson on Wednesday morning explained that they are trying to emulate the refugee experience as best they can. In addition to sleeping outside, they are only consuming the food and beverages that are donated to them.
"The cold is an obvious challenge," student Evan Sworesho told CBC News. "But we know this is not a permanent thing, we know this is just for one week. And I know that tomorrow night I'm going to go home, back to my home and back to my bed."
In contrast, he noted, people living in Iraq and Syria "don't have that privilege.
"They can't say, 'I've had enough of this, I have to go home.'"
'People are freezing to death'
Rosemary Yachouh, the president of ACSSU of Canada, said the campaign started years ago, during the Iraq war. It has gained steam as the conflict in Syria has worsened.
She hopes people don't forget the plight of internally displaced minorities, including Assyrians, Yazidis and Armenians, she said.
"In general, the overall impression has been very positive," she said of the reaction to the campaign. "People are now more aware of what's going on in Syria and Iraq."
She knows the campaign may only offer some small help in the short-term, but wishes she could do more over the long-term.
"How much of a difference is it going to make to these people's lives?" she wondered.
Eshu Paul, another student sleeping outside Ryerson, said no matter how hard they try, they won't ever know what it's really like to live as a refugee.
Source: CBC Canada.