For the past five years, a group of NYU students passionate about helping Syrian refugees have independently organized a trip to Berlin to volunteer for the cause. This year, 10 students organized a spring break trip from March 12 to 21 to work with three organizations: Moabit Hilft, Give Something Back To Berlin and the Holocaust Museum. Three students who have gone on this trip shared their experiences with WSN.
CAS sophomore Ahmed Allam, an Arabic speaking volunteer, listened to the stories of refugees while working alongside them.
“My very close friend Abdallah was detained by the Syrian government when he was 16 under the pretense of terrorism. He had no idea what was going on and was arrested with no trial. He spent two months in prison and he told me that it was the most horrific experience in his life. They interrogated him everyday by placing some sort of cloth on his head and electrocuting him all over his body so he would admit to terrorism. He said various intelligence agencies like the CIA, FBI, ISIS, Russia and Hamas would torture him until he couldn’t feel anything anymore. I asked him if at any point he lost hope and forgot Allah? He looked at me and smiled and said not once. He said that when they would beat me, I look up to God and ask for patience.”
“Realizing my privilege and how there’s millions and millions of these stories I felt empty inside and wanted to scream at the world for letting this happen. But at the same time this was the most influential learning experience I’ve ever had; being able to listen to them when they felt they were ready to share their stories.”
Stern sophomore Essma Bengabsia has prior experience volunteering with several organizations such as the North Hudson Islamic Education Center and The Muslim Network and is currently a part of NYU Students for Justice in Palestine.
“I’ve seen how people are when they come back from these war-torn experiences, and it’s almost something you can’t fathom. I remain speechless at how human beings can do this to other human beings. We forget that there is a whole other world out there. Seeing that reminded me that we should use our resources to do everything we can to help.”
CAS senior Adu Matory was part of the trip to Berlin during the spring of 2014. He is currently heading the planning of Refugee Awareness Week and serves as a global ambassador for NYU Berlin.
“I began my service last year, after witnessing the mass media maelstrom over the refugee crisis. Reading about the number of refugees granted asylum in Germany sparked an itch. Historically, Germany has struggled to integrate migrants into its society, evidenced by ubiquitous, yet still-segregated Turkish communities. Something needs to be done differently for the millions of incoming refugees and I believe the NYU network can catalyze that change globally.”
“It’s sometimes hard to grasp the gravity of the situation, removed from the crisis as we are in New York, but their struggle is ours too. We are endowed with the voice of a world-renowned university. We can advocate for those who too often find themselves voiceless. It’s our duty to do what we can to help our kin access basic human rights. I say to students, especially those studying abroad at European sites next semester: Inform yourself. Reach out. You can be part of the solution.”
Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]