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Report on Projects to Raise Awareness of the Crisis in Syria


Five years have passed since the crisis in Syria began. Today, around half the population are either refugees or evacuees, and there is still little sign of a solution in sight. Because of the geographical distance, many people in Japan feel little connection with the conflict. In an attempt to reduce that distance, we organized a display of information panels in the university library, took part in the “Atsumete kokusai kyoryoku” [International Cooperation Collection] charity project, and organized stalls selling handicrafts from Syria.

Library displays

The information panels were on display in the library for two weeks, from January 8 to 22, 2016. The panels provided information on the plight of Syrian refugees, introduced various aid efforts, and introduced students to the lives of refugees in Japan. Thanks to the help of Professor Toru Miura, a Middle East specialist from the Faculty of Letters and Education, we were also able to display photographs showing life in Syria before the conflict began. The addition of these photos was an effective way of reminding students that the people now forced to live as refugees until recently lived ordinary lives not so different from their own.。

In lunch breaks during the week of January 18, we collected surplus items for the “Atsumete kokusai kyoryoku” program and ran a stall selling handmade embroidery made by Syrian refugees. The “Atsumete kokusai kyoryoku” project is run by the NGO Care International Japan. Instead of soliciting donations directly, the project encourages people to collect unwanted or surplus items that can then be exchanged for money. We decided to take part in order to support the projects that Care International Japan operates in areas around Syria. People brought a wide variety of donations, from unused prepaid postcards to foreign coins, books, CDs and DVDs, and used stamps.

Charity sale stall

We also sold embroidery items provided by the organization “Ibra wa Khayt.” The name means “needle and thread” in Arabic. The group commissions embroidery to Syrian women and pays a fair price for the finished pieces, allowing the women an opportunity to earn an income and helping to preserve Syria’s traditions of embroidery at the same time. One of the group’s founders is Yuko Shimura, a graduate of Ochanomizu University’s Faculty of Letters and Education. Most of the pieces we sold this time were made by women who have sought refuge across the border in Turkey. Each handmade item is unique, and large numbers of people stopped by to take a look at the embroideries, many of them finding it difficult to narrow down their choice.

A selection of items sold

We will be happy if these events have helped even a little to raise awareness of the reality of the situation in Syria. We are very grateful to everyone in the library, Professor Kumagai and Miura of the Global Studies for Intercultural Cooperation department, and the other members of faculty who helped to plan and carry out the events. Also thanks to the Global Collaboration Center, Ibra wa Khayt, and to everyone who stopped to look at the displays and the products on sale. Thank you!

Collected items

As Professor Miura of the Department of Letters and Education says: “Syria is a crossroads of civilization, open to both east and west, a meeting place where diverse peoples and religions coexist. It is my fervent hope that this proud history will not come to an end with the present conflict.” We look for a speedy end to the conflict and that the peace and normality will return to Syria soon.

(Student Volunteers, Global Studies for Inter-Cultural Cooperation)

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