Do Your Part emphasizes dignity for refugees

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Do Your Part emphasizes dignity for refugees

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Executive director of Do Your Part, a non-profit that ran the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece, left De Anza College with an important message: give people dignity and hope; let them know they are not forgotten.

Lisa Campbell of Do Your Part, student trustee of the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees, Elias Kamal, 20, political science major and other volunteers of the Oinofyta refugee camp presented their experience volunteering at the camp in “Refugees and Us” to an audience of over 150 people at the Visual and Performing Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 2.

The Oinofyta refugee camp, located north of Athens, outside the small town with the same name of Oinofyta, was established to take care of refugees fleeing from the Middle East, mostly from Afghanistan.

Their homes are not safe, their own governments are dropping bombs on them or their governments are corrupt — people are moving because they’re leaving conflict, Campbell said.

At Oinofyta refugee camp, Campbell’s priority was to give people a meaningful place to live while they wait for the asylum process, she said.

“Our residents could cook. None of the other organizations that were running camps allowed their residents to cook,” said Campbell. “When you can choose your own food and you could choose your own meal, you don’t have to eat whatever someone drops in your lap, then that gives you a sense of dignity.”

“Giving a hand up; not a hand out,” was Campbell’s philosophy.

Oinofyta was closed on Nov. 6. Half of the 500 residents was sent to apartments in Athens and the other half was sent to other camps, Campbell said, but Kamal added that the issue is not over when refugees get into their own homes.

“A lot of people think that once you leave this refugee camp, then that’s it, “ said Kamal. “They completely ignore the generational trauma that exists.”

Do Your Part is currently teaching English, Greek, budgeting, computer classes and providing psychological and legal services in a community center nearby the camp that closed. They are also providing scholarships for refugees so they can advance to jobs with higher potential pay, Campbell said.

For people who want to help, Campbell said they need translators, volunteers that can teach English, computer skills, art, people who can run power tools and volunteers for any service a non-profit can’t afford to pay for.

After Campbell’s presentation, Kamal addressed the hateful rhetoric about refugees in the US.

“It baffles me when people think that those [refugees and terrorists] are the same things because they [refugees] are the ones who are suffering from the terrorists the most,” he said.

A big takeaway from audience member Nabil Syed was that people are not doing enough to help the refugees.

“These refugees didn’t choose to be what they were or where they are, and they’re not defined by that title, refugee,” said Syed. “They have goals and aspirations and the only thing that separates them from us is the fact that we’re born here.”

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