Students create Project Lunchbox to help Syrian refugees

by Kelly Kerrigan , Staff Writer

Since the civil war broken out in Syria in 2011, 11 million refugees have fled to other countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt living in poor conditions and without shelter. The refugees are often deprived of their basic human needs, living in homes infested with parasites and drinking contaminated water.

Communications juniors Arianna Virsunen and Kylie Turner made it their mission to help these refugees. The duo enrolled in a speech and debate class together and said they were inspired by their topic involving Syria and decided to make an initiate in order to create change.

Virsunen said watched a documentary called “Salam, Neighbor” on Netflix to educate herself on the topic. The documentary aims to connect the world with refugees and raise awareness on the issue.

“The hardships refugees face like separation from society and minimal resources are shown,” Virsunen said. “One of the children they met in the camp, Raful, was in third grade when he watched his elementary school get bombed. Watching this film made me so concerned for the education and health of these future generations who could be world leaders.”

Virsunen and Turner started a GoFundMe campaign called #ProjectLunchboxSyria, which will provide a week of safe water to 200 people. A total of $600 will provide 20 emergency kits to families in need. The program has raised almost $200 out of its $1,200 goal in just two weeks.

The name “Project Lunchbox” comes from the intentions to provide people with “lunchbox level” necessities like food and water.

“I wanted to start something of my own to be able to give back to a causes I felt needed to be heard,” Virsunen said. “I’m really looking forward to choosing our cause for this spring and continuing to contribute to these issues so close to my heart.”

Virsunen said she also plans to travel around the world providing humanitarian aid to countries in need.

The pair said said they are excited about the support their families and friends have provided to help raise awareness for the cause.

According to unicef, Syria produces the most child refugees, 8.4 million to be exact, both internally displaced people and refugees.The children there have spent bitter winters living in unsafe shelters without proper protection from the cold.

“I feel that I should use what I’ve been blessed with to help other people because everyone deserves happiness and the ability to achieve whatever they want regardless of their upbringing,” Turner said.

The duo said they intend to focus the charity on a new important cause every season in order raise awareness about different issues throughout the world. The two also said they want everyone to educate themselves on the living conditions of the refugees and do whatever they can to help, even if that means sharing a Facebook post.

A small donation of any sort could change this and is a great way to get in the spirit of giving this holiday season. Next time you take a sip of clean water, remember there are people who do not even have the options to do so.