SAFAR students work to help local refugees

SAFAR has dedicated itself to helping refugees in and around Winston-Salem

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SAFAR’s mission statement is to “support the dreams and initiatives of refugees in the Winston-Salem community, create a welcoming environment and set an example for Wake Forest students for inclusivity.”

Sophie Guymon, Contributing Writer

The Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees (SAFAR) at Wake Forest was founded in the fall of 2016. Their mission statement is “to support the dreams and initiatives of refugees in the Winston-Salem community, create a welcoming environment and set an example for Wake Forest students for inclusivity.”

Community outreach chair, senior Rebecca Benson, described SAFAR’s goals as “[providing] tutoring, allyship and fundraising when needed for the local refugee community.”

Benson has been involved with SAFAR since her freshman year and said she loves being on the executive board because “it has allowed her to become more involved in the refugee community in Winston-Salem.”

Serving on the board alongside Benson is her fellow Community Outreach Chair Alondra Janicek (‘22), President Yorjannys Gomez (‘21), Off-Campus Coordinators Savarni Sanka (‘21), Caroline Fatemi (‘21) and Mohamed Ahmidouch (‘21), Treasurer Brandon Hauser (‘22) and Event Coordinators Noah Meyer (‘21) and Conor Metzger (‘23).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SAFAR has had to adjust and hold primarily virtual events throughout this academic year. General meetings have been held on Sunday evenings over Zoom up to twice a month. Tutoring sessions that would ordinarily be held at families’ houses transitioned to Zoom as well. Members tutored in subjects ranging from third grade math to SAT prep and were also able to sign on to be paired with local refugees as “friendship partners.”

“Tutoring is a really great way to get to know the [refugee] families, who are all so amazing and welcoming,” Benson said.

SAFAR hosted other creative events, some of which involved partnering with other local refugee advancement initiatives and members of the community. One such event was a virtual cooking class held in partnership with Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR). At that event, students were taught to make traditional Middle-Eastern hummus. This event was led by Sheereen Gomma, the founder of Delicious by Sheereen, a non profit catering company that supports the refugee community. Proceeds benefited a couple from the Democratic Republic of Congo, aiding them with covering the medical costs of a preterm birth.

Participants in the class were also encouraged to donate to a separate fundraiser started by a close friend of the family.

Another partnership with ECAR resulted in a fundraiser over the holiday season. This fundraiser supported a local family looking for a permanent home in the middle of a housing and employment shortage. Both fundraising efforts achieved their goals.

As well as fundraising, students were able to expand their cultural horizons through opportunities such as a basic Arabic class taught by a native speaker from the community. All students were welcome, and no previous experience in the language was required.

SAFAR will continue to host meetings throughout the rest of the year and is beginning to transition back to in-person events. Students can stop by the lower quad next Wednesday at 4 p.m. to grab food from Delicious by Shereen.

“Her food is amazing and so is her business. She hires many refugees to work for her catering company, mainly Syrian refugees,” Benson said. “This has allowed many women to find financial stability through cooking.”

SAFAR is currently in the process of electing their executive board for the 2021-2022 school year. Next year, they hope to be able to hold more in-person events as the university is predicting a relatively normal fall semester.