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By Morgan Eads
Shafi Khan had to pause at one point as he recounted his experiences working in Syria.
As someone who has “basically lived in war zones” for the past two years, Khan, director of international operations for Muslims Without Borders, said the things he saw in Syria were part of the scariest war zone he’s ever seen.
Thursday night, Khan and UNICEF Officer of Volunteer and Community Partnerships Taruna Sadhoo told students about the dire situation in Syria, as well as the actions being taken to assist those affected in an event hosted by UK UNICEF.
UK UNICEF raised money through T-shirt sales and donations to benefit those affected by the escalating violence in Syria.
Sadhoo focused on the aid UNICEF is providing to families in Syria, as well as around the world.
She also talked about how students can become involved, as well as the importance of staying informed on global happenings.
“Continue being interested in your global citizenship, I mean developing your understanding of the world and how you fit into it,” she said. “You don’t have to go a thousand miles across the world, you can do something right here, think globally, act locally.”
Additionally, Sadhoo spoke of the importance of the aid UNICEF provides, not just in and around Syria, but all over the world.
The event, “We Believe in Zero: UK UNICEF Benefit Night for Syria” worked to help UNICEF’s campaign, “We Believe in Zero,” the goal of which is to reach a point where no children die of preventable causes.
“Nineteen thousand,” she said, “That is the number of children that will die of preventable causes before we lay our heads on our pillows tonight.”
Khan flew in from London last night and said he had not slept in about 24 hours.
“But if I can inform one person about Syria, inspire one person to take action, I would stay up for 48,” he said.
Students and young people can make a difference, Khan said. “There’s no reason for anyone feel helpless at all.”
Khan went as far as to add the extensive involvement of college students in the project he is involved in to help in Syria.
“If I’m proud of anything, it’s that,” he said. “This operation is being run by college students.”
Khan said he has been in Syria four times to provide aid in the last year.
He spoke of one instance when he and his team went into Syria bringing HemCon, a medication to stop bleeding in instances such as gunshot wounds.
“We strapped the medications on our backs, cut the fence and entered the country illegally,” Khan said.
He spoke briefly about the dangers involved in going into a tumultuous Syria.
“They warned us not to smoke, saying it attracts the snipers,” Khan said. “Another reason not to smoke, kids.”
As the team was trying to get out of Syria, they were spotted by a group of Syrian military, they managed to find cover in the landscape.
A group of refugees nearby, Khan said, were not so lucky.
“I remember sitting there,” he said, having to pause for a moment. “There was nothing we could do, we just listened and then we had to run for it.”
Khan said Muslims Without Borders lost its first staff member in Syria last week when one of their trucks was hit.
The rest of the team from the vehicle is in the hospital.
For this reason, Khan is headed to Syria on Saturday, when he was supposed to have the opportunity to spend time with his family.
Despite the efforts Khan and his teams have put in, it is not enough, he said.
“It’s a trickle,” he said. “Honestly, what we are doing is so small. Our hope is that there are thousands of other people doing what we are and that’s when it adds up to making a difference.”
One student said the event was informative and moving.
“I think that the speakers did an amazing job of really promoting their efforts and being able to represent UNICEF as an organization, as well as giving insight into the conflict that is going on in Syria,” elementary education junior Jazmine Shoup said. “I think that it was really inspirational and gave a lot of statistics that people will be compelled to act.”
Another student said the event led her to consider becoming more involved herself.
“It inspired me, I definitely want to get involved and join UNICEF next year,” biology sophomore Nikisha Patel said.
Though the event had games and a light-hearted atmosphere, the heart of the subject matter brought into focus the somber realities being seen globally.
As Khan was speaking, he gave his thoughts on the conflict in Syria that has taken the lives of uncounted numbers of civilians.
“It’s not a war,” he said. “It’s basically a one-sided massacre.”