Hopeful and excited. Those are the feelings of a group of StFX students who have come together to create a new student society that will support and come under the umbrella of StFX’s greater efforts to respond to the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
The StFX for SAFE Student Society, ratified at the Jan. 24th StFX Students’ Union meeting, is part of the university’s StFX for SAFE Committee, in turn established in support of the local SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace) organization.
Student society president Benjamin McGrath says after attending a Nov. 30th town hall meeting where several groups across campus joined together to form the StFX for SAFE Committee with a university goal to raise $100,000 to sponsor refugee families, they wanted to help mobilize and get students engaged in the effort.
“I thought the first step in doing this was to create a society, to take on that role and bring that message to students,” he says.
“We’re incredibly hopeful to what students can bring to help,” says Kristian Rasenberg, student representative on the StFX for SAFE Committee.
He says the goal is to raise awareness as much as funds.
“For us, it’s more than just fundraising, it’s getting as much accurate information to the students, they can donate time, make families feel welcome,” adds Hillary Elliott, vice-president communications with the Students’ Union, which will be involved, helping connect the society with the right resources.
Learning about what’s going on and what they can do about it is important, say the students who spoke about how inspired they’ve been by the efforts of Antigonish town and the StFX community.
“We’re trying to start collectively as students, small amounts can make a difference,” Mr. Rasenberg says. He says one initiative planned is Pause for the Cause where students challenge each other, perhaps to donate what they may spend one day on coffee or a movie night, to throw in $5 here, or $10 there. “That adds up and is a big difference maker.”
Ms. Elliott says they are also planning a video campaign. One of the issues she points out is that groups can bring over a family of five, but people have to be under age 23 to be considered part of the family. “Many of the students are close to the age of 23, and it would be horrible to think they couldn’t come as part of a family.”
Jason Fitzpatrick, vice-president of the StFX for SAFE Student Society, says people want to reach out to help.
“We can help,” Mr. McGrath says. “Being a global community, we have an obligation to help.”
“And knowing this is the right thing to do,” adds Emily Gale, Students’ Union vice-president external, who notes it’s important to combat some of the negativity in the media regarding the issue of refugees. “It’s wanting to be part of the positive change, of changing the dialogue.”