Making Ripples for Refugees

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Semester at Sea
Oct 29, 2015


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Making Ripples for Refugees

Fall 2015 Semester at Sea Presidential Scholar, Hadya Sow.
Fall 2015 Semester at Sea Presidential Scholar, Hadya Sow.

Before even docking in Piraeus, Greece at the beginning of October, the Fall 2015 voyagers of the MV World Odyssey rallied around a donation campaign to aid the victims of the escalating refugee crisis in Europe. Presidential Scholar Hadya Sow, a Global Health major at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, spearheaded the project, inspiring a common cause for the community.

Hadya charged Semester at Sea with filling donation boxes of toiletries, gently used clothing, and other high needs items. The idea for the boxes originated from a project Hadya started last semester on her home campus, which looks at refugee camps and specifically the experiences of women within these camps. However, this particular idea didn’t occur to her until the days leading up to the ship’s arrival in Greece.

“As cliché as it sounds, it was really bothering me because there were things that we can do that I, myself, wasn’t doing,” Hadya said. “The more that we talked about [the refugee crisis] and the more I got news notifications about it, I was asking myself what was being done? And what can we do to help?”

Although initially uncertain about the logistics of the boxes, Hadya confidently pursued this initiative believing that if she got the idea out there, people would help. And the more she talked to people about the project, the more validation she got to pursue this idea. Once the boxes were put out, faster than she imagined three boxes were filled with toiletries outside of the reception desk onboard.

“Before I even had the chance to put anything in the boxes, they were filled with donations and they were everyone else’s. To see people so excited about it and to know you’re not the only one thinking about it was really reassuring,” she said. “It made me realize that all it takes is a little ripple; all it takes is throwing a stone in the water and the ripples are massive. I didn’t expect the turn out that I got.”

Items donated by Semester at Sea voyagers to refugees in Athens, Greece.
Items donated by Semester at Sea voyagers to refugees in Athens, Greece.
Despite the ease of the collection process, Hadya experienced some difficulties when it came time to actually deliver the donations. The itinerary of the ship did not coincide with the schedule of the donation agency, but by a stroke of luck a Greek student onboard was able to help her find an alternative channel through which to donate the toiletries.

“This experience made me realize that it is possible to make an impact. Traveling and seeing a lot of deprivation on the streets, it makes you feel like you can’t help. I’m always like what can I do?” And, “although you can’t help everyone, you can help some, and whatever you do for that person really goes a long way.”

Hadya concluded that this project was such a success because of the Semester at Sea community. “We all came together so quickly to help, and from the start I didn’t want this to be a ‘me’ effort, but a ‘we’ and that’s exactly how it’s been so far.”

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