Why we used ten languages to express a single message at UC Berkeley.
You can’t talk to numbers, but you can talk to human beings — and human beings celebrate holidays.
By Hajar Larbah
There are 3.3 million Syrian students out of school and at UC Berkeley that statistic is not just another number to us. The idea of a “lost generation” of Syrian students is terrifying. In America, educators are constantly trying to keep kids in school to make sure no child gets left behind. Imagine if all students were left behind — what would the repercussions be? As students, we know the value of education and that’s why we’re compelled to speak up and make our campus more accessible to Syrian students. We hope the administration will do the same and are asking them to join the IIE Syria Consortium, which would truly honor UC Berkeley’s founding principle of “advancing generations.”
The purpose of creating #FromCaltoSyria video this past Eid was to push past the statistics and remember that behind the numbers are human beings. You can’t talk to numbers, but you can talk to human beings — and human beings celebrate holidays. Our message to you, our fellow Syrian refugee students, is that you have hopes, not only fears, and those hopes are celebrated this Eid. You have a future and aspirations that will take you there away from the present and that is celebrated this Eid.
All the students that came together for the video represent the diversity within Cal’s 38,000 student body who share one thing in common — a desire to share our humanity.
André Luu, the external affairs Vice President of student government, wished Syrian refugee students a Happy Eid in Vietnamese. As a son of Vietnamese refugee parents, Andre sees the same struggles his ancestors faced during the Vietnam war in Syrian refugees. The purpose of Books Not Bombs is important to him because “it is so critical that we, as Americans, ensure that our Syrian peers feel safe here, feel accepted here, and feel wanted here. If we truly want to uphold American values, then it is our responsibility to welcome all and empower all.”
André as well as other students on campus understand that many Syrians are not able to celebrate Eid the same way amidst airstrikes, away from home and family. With each passing year of the revolution, Syrians have less and less to celebrate. But they have given us students at Cal a greater reason to celebrate. Their bravery and resistance as well as passion to pursue an education inspires us and we commemorate that in ten different languages this Eid.
Salaam, the president of SOS, says that to her, the hashtag #FromCaltoSyria “means accountability and responsibility. Being at UC Berkeley I will do what I can in my capacity to respond to the Syrian Crisis.” Because at the end of the day it is not just the Syrian Crisis, it is a humanitarian crisis and we are all affected alike.
Despite the stream of devastating news, we are not desensitized and refuse to remain ignorant towards refugees. On the contrary, we insist on empathy from ourselves and our community. And to do that, we are pushing beyond raising awareness and working towards raising understanding among our student body — on what is happening to Syrian refugees and where they fit into the story.