Making a Difference at Penn State

By: Annaliese Thoet ‘19, Penn State University

The Syrian refugee crisis was the focal point of the news for a couple months in the 2015–2016 school year, my freshman year at Penn State University. I wanted to take action, but I did not know how until I learned of No Lost Generation. I began a No Lost Generation chapter at Penn State and learned the ropes from the dedicated group of students at George Washington University. We held our first meeting in September and have held several events since we started. Together, a core group of 15 students have helped to host an “I Stand with Refugees” campaign, a speaker and a restaurant fundraising night at Pita Cabana. Our first event, the “I Stand with Refugees” campaign, saw an overwhelming amount of support from the students at Penn State. We had about 50 students tell us why they stood with refugees. Many students joined the club because they saw this awareness event.

Our most highly anticipated and impactful event yet was having a professor at Penn State talk to us about the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Dr. Maitland is an IST (Information Sciences and Technology) professor and affiliate professor for the School of International Affairs at Penn State. She brings a wealth of knowledge with her as she has completed IST research in the refugee camp on two separate occasions. She presented the members of No Lost Generation at Penn State with an overview of what it is like to be in a refugee camp and the processes that the refugees have to undergo. Dr. Maitland answered questions from, “How long is a person in a refugee camp?” to “What is the environment like in a camp?” She was able to explain and clarify the intense vetting process that refugees go through in order to come to the United States. After Dr. Maitland’s presentation, one of the club members sent a message in our social media group chat that read: “Dr. Maitland’s presentation was fantastic and I loved every second of it.” After her presentation, we viewed White Helmets as a club. The documentary had the ability to put a human face on the Syrian refugee crisis and gave students at Penn State a greater motivation to take action. We are only two months into being a club, however, the No Lost Generation Student Initiative Network has afforded us the opportunity to help children and we hope to continually use this platform to assist where we can.