Society profile: Syria Solidarity Society
QMUL’s Syria Society was recently highly commended as the 'most improved society' at the National Society Awards 2017. We caught up with them to find out what work they’ve been doing and what they’ve got planned for the future.
Could you start by telling us why you formed the Syria Solidarity Society?
The Syria Solidarity Society was formed in response to the deteriorating situation in Syria; as students at Queen Mary, we felt that there was a lack of awareness among students and little was being done on campus regarding the saddening humanitarian situation in Syria. So, as a group of students with a passion for the Syrian cause and an immense urge to help the Syrian people who have been suffering for over six years, we felt that starting this society will educate people on what is going on, whilst also provide a basis for charity work and fundraising, where donations go to Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. We also hoped that this would leave a legacy for coming students; this society was set up to not only benefit the Syrian people, but to also help shape the understanding of the Syrian conflict among the youth at our university.
What are the main aims of your society and what do you hope to achieve?
Our main aim as a society is to raise awareness about the humanitarian situation on the ground, as well as being the voice for the suffering Syrian people – those who have remained in the country and those that have fled to surrounding countries seeking refuge and safety. Although our work on campus may not end the conflict, the Syrian people are missing a voice, and are missing communities coming together to speak out for them. We feel that because very little is being done by our generation to voice this concern, our society aims to be their voice. We aim to bring people of similar passions for this cause closer, to generate greater and more life-changing ideas and appeals that will help the Syrian people.
Do you run any events for people who want to get involved and help with your cause?
Seeing as the society has only been recently set up, we have mainly focused on getting our society out there through hosting different events which students can attend; for example, we’ve held a debate two years ago, as well as having Syria Awareness Week at QMUL two years in a row, both of which have been great successes! This year, Syria Awareness Week saw a great turnout from students at both QMUL and Barts, and events included a film-screening of the Oscar-winning documentary White Helmets, a refugee panel discussing the work they have been doing since they came to the UK, and an exhibition. Since the start of the academic year, we’ve also had a women’s drive in collaboration with Hand in Hand for Syria. We have also had an event called ‘Forgotten Minds’, during which a panel of doctors who have worked with vulnerable refugees shared their experiences and addressed the importance of mental health for refugees, as well as having volunteers from Students4Syria come and talk to our students about their volunteering experiences at the refugee camp and how students can get involved with voluntary work abroad. Recently, we had the Shoebox4Syria campaign, with 30 societies actively collaborating to make a Syrian child smile this Eid. The campaign involved filling a box with Eid presents to be delivered to Syrian refugees. We have had various fundraising activities and stalls throughout the year, from which all donations have gone to the charity we were working with this year: Human Care Syria.
What else do you think people can do to help alleviate the suffering of those caught up in the Syrian crisis?
I would say the best thing people can do is get involved! As I previously mentioned, it has become the norm to see it all in front of us happening, and feel that due to the intensity of the crisis, that whatever we do will not help. But we need to change that one step at a time, and encourage anyone with a passion and urge to help those suffering in countries such as Syria to take action by finding a local organisation which seeks to support those in the crisis, by whatever means. Another action can be to write to local MPs and place pressure on our government to do more in trying to resolve the Syrian crisis. Let’s not also forget the power of social media, which in times like these, can be put to great use by sharing articles, pictures or interesting events, vigils and marches that are hosted throughout the year by various different communities.
Congratulations on being Highly Commended for Most Improved Society at the National Society Awards 2017! Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Thank you! We were all extremely thrilled with the news, as we hadn’t expected it! Syria Solidarity Society won the award for the ‘Most improved society’ at the QMUL’s Societies and Student Media Awards 2017, as well as earning a silver in the societies excellence award scheme. Shortly after that, we were told that our society had been shortlisted at the National Societies Awards in Nottingham for the most improved society! The support we have had from QMSU has been fantastic, and their words of encouragement and support have only motivated us to work harder and strive in making a greater change.
Do you have any big plans for the coming year?
We hope to bring together different students of different talents to bring the most to the team. We will continue the work we have been doing over the past couple of years, hoping to only get bigger and better at QMUL, whilst also engaging different societies with our events to make the most out of it and generate a greater result for the Syrian people.