After four months of brainstorming, cultivating a mission, and creating a website to encompass their vision, Amin Ojjeh (’16) and Trilok Sadarangani (’16) are now able to call themselves cofounders of a charity: Helping Our People Endure.
Helping Our People Endure (HOPE) is a small, unregistered charity dedicated to supporting education for the young Syrian refugees living in the Olive Tree Camp in Atmeh, Syria. “The idea is to give back something that the Syrian children have lost–an education,” Ojjeh said.
Ojjeh, whose mother is Syrian, watched as his grandparents were forced to abandon their homeland and escape the bloody civil war that is consuming their country. Watching the thousands, and then millions of people being displaced, Ojjeh realized that “people can lose everything once a civil war happens, everything.” As Ojjeh comprehended the magnitude of this conflict, he began to think about how he could support the people of his country.
While Ojjeh was motivated to start a charity by his intimate ties with Syria, Sadarangani felt compelled to act due to his friend. “I felt obligated to help my friend, especially as I have heard what his family has gone through in Syria,” Sadarangani said. He also believes that he should help as, in his opinion, this cause is the most urgent and long-lasting crisis that the world is facing today.
HOPE focuses on supporting a refugee camp in Atmeh in Northern Syria. The organization is aiming to focus their attention toward this camp which is often overshadowed by other larger, better-connected refugee camps in the region. “Other organizations that direct their time towards Syrian refugees, direct it towards big camps, Sadarangani said. “We are a small organization and we want to focus our time on small camps that don’t get as much attention. That is why we picked the Olive Tree Camp in Atmeh, Syria.”
Ojjeh and Sadarangani hope that in choosing to aid a modestly-sized camp, their money and support will not be squandered or lost in the commotion of a bigger camp.
All funds raised by Sadarangani and Ojjeh will be given to an intermediary organization known as the Amis du Peuple Syrien, who operate a program in the camp. Once they receive funds from Hope, Amis du Peuple Syrien will purchase supplies that are required by the school and their students at the time. Emphasizing HOPE’s sole focus of improving education in the camp, Sadarangani said, “Because we are in school, we know how important education is.”
HOPE’s first goal is to raise £1,000 by the end of this school year. Sadarangani and Ojjeh hope that most of these funds will be contributed by the ASL student body through donation boxes, erg-a-thons, and other events still in the works. Eventually, Sadarangani and Ojjeh aim to introduce the organization to other British and international schools.
Science Teacher and Grade 10 Dean Marisa Wilson is the acting advisor for HOPE and has her own expectations for the organization. She anticipates that the charity will heighten the student body’s awareness and understanding of the brutal conflict in Syria. “I would like to see them do something that will promote student awareness about the issue that goes beyond just fundraising,” Wilson said. “I think they’ve got a situation that is very important and interesting to the student body.”
Ultimately, Ojjeh and Sadarangani’s first and foremost goal is to help ensure that the current generation of displaced Syrian children do not grow up without the benefit of a real education. The co-founders hope that they can give these children a chance to move past this violent conflict and into a world where they can succeed. As Ojjeh said,“ We want to give hope.”