600 multi-faith volunteers show up in New York to pack aid supplies for Syrian refugees

Quoted in article for The Christian Times

People of various faiths responded to a call for volunteers to pack goods for Syrian refugees whose situation they perceive is only getting worse.

Almost a thousand Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus showed up at the 69th Regiment Armory in lower Manhattan on Sunday, June 26, surpassing the number of 600 needed volunteers. The responders filled plastic bags with personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, hand towels, condoms and washable menstrual pads.

The volunteers believe that the hygiene products, which came from the New York company Henry Schein, will not just prevent the spread of health problems but also preserve the dignity of the refugees. All in all, they packaged 7,500 hygiene kits that will be delivered to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.

Heart to Heart International, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees organized the event as they recognized the shortage of humanitarian aid reaching Turkey.

“There has been a great desire by many people, faith-based and not, who have been frustrated watching the Syrian refugee crisis get worse every year,” Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg of the Multifaith Alliance told Religion News Service.

Greenberg also explained why more people showed up than they needed.

“Helping Syrian refugees really strikes a chord with us,” said Simran Jeet Singh of the Sikh Coalition who came with 70 others. “We readily identify with those who are treated less than human.”

“It’s about time Americans took action,” said Taiwanese immigrant and board member of Buddhist Global Relief, Sophie Sun of New Jersey.

When the Canadian residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta became wildfire victims in early May, the Syrian refugees who settled in Calgary grabbed their opportunity to pay back by pitching in donations for the tens of thousands of evacuees.

“We are good people, we want to be a good part of this society,” Canadian Syrian refugee Rita Kanchet Kallas told Al Jazeera.

Kallas and another refugee, Naser Nader, used social media to organize donations and help from what little that the refugees had for the wildfire victims.

“We will do our best to give back the good things [Canadians have done] for us,” Kallas said.

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