During the month of March, senior history major Benya Wilson started a fundraiser to help families in Lebanon.
Wilson raised over $2,000, donated by current Southern students and alumni, through her GoFundMe page. The fundraiser more than doubled its original goal of $1,000 and was widely shared over different social media platforms, which contributed to the high reach of people.
Wilson, who spent a year abroad volunteering at a Syrian refugee school in Bourk Hammoud, Beirut, decided to start the fundraiser once she saw the current struggles of many families that she knew and worked with through the country’s political and economic crisis.
According to Alexis Hurd-Shires, director of the Adventist Learning Center in Beirut (ALC), in 2019, Lebanon saw a massive outbreak of protests due to political and economic corruption. This led to the decreased value of the local currency, the Lebanese pound, and “countless refugees and citizens lost their jobs.” The high rates of inflation have left over 70% of the population under the poverty line. This presented a greater challenge for refugees, who average a salary of $60 per month for an entire family. The situation has only been aggravated by COVID-19 leaving thousands of families without any income.
The money raised by Wilson will be used for 90 food boxes full of basic food items and will be distributed to families in need in the next few weeks.
Wilson’s first connection with Lebanon began in 2017 when she decided to go abroad for a year. However, the process to get her there began years earlier.
“In September 2015, I was compelled by images and stories I came across online of the Syrian refugee mass migration crisis in the Mediterranean and Europe,” Wilson said.
After following the refugee crisis for two years, Wilson contacted the director of the ALC, saved money for two weeks and got on a plane across the world.
“I went half-way around the world without much prior cultural research or any group or organization backing me,” Wilson said. “I went because I felt compelled to.”
While in Beirut, Wilson went to a local university, taught summer classes to third graders, taught music to fourth and fifth graders during the school year and started an after-school nutrition program for some of the mothers. She also helped with the marketing for the ALC. These roles allowed her to meet people from different ages that are now struggling.
“I feel like my heart, or a part of my heart, is still there,” Wilson said.
Wilson still helps the school fundraise when needed and helps with social media and web design to raise awareness of the current situation.
Wilson urges other people to donate and help in any way they can.
“Every amount of support and awareness you choose to help with is appreciated and significant!” Wilson said.
For more information or to donate, contact Wilson through Instagram at @winterose01 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.