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Students donate time to help refugees

(Photo courtesy of Diana Rayes)
(Photo courtesy of Diana Rayes)

(Photo courtesy of Diana Rayes) (Photo courtesy of Diana Rayes)

Under Somali Skies United, a student organization that aims to help stop starvation, diseases and natural disaster, leads charity events and activities for refugees from countries all over the world to engage in American culture.

USS United was established in the spring of 2012 by psychology junior Diana Rayes and biological sciences junior Noor Raad.

Rayes, the club's vice president, said her dad is a refugee from Syria and came to the U.S. when he was 18, which prompted her to get involved with helping other refugees.

USS United has grabbed the attention of many students and grown significantly in size since last year.

"Each semester our group grows," Rayes said. "First, it started off just with friends, and then it became friends of friends, and now this year at Passport (to ASU) we recruited a lot of freshmen. They are very motivated.”

Rayes said the club helps refugees from different countries who are not able to go back to their native land to adapt to American culture.

"We started focusing on one group of refugees since we were a small club, but then as we expanded, we got in touch with a larger group of ethnicities," she said.

USS United holds meetings every other Tuesday to plan out future events with the refugees and how to get them to participate in the community.

Biomedical engineering freshman Noura Essa was first invited to a meeting by a friend. She said she immediately loved it and wanted to be part of it.

“I was never involved in clubs before, but seeing everyone come out and wanting to support this small club was amazing,” she said.

Raad said the club will offer activities and community volunteer services to the refugees who escaped from developing nations that experienced war, starvation, disease and poverty.

USS United members are going to tutor the kids every weekend when they are behind in school and assist doctors that volunteer their time to do medical screenings on refugee families that need medical attention.

"We hold events on and off campus for the refugees," Rayes said. "For example, we have potlucks in the apartment complexes the refugees live in and had a bike drive in the past spring for the refugees and kids."

Rayes also describes an event at ASU where Barrett, the Honors College, provided transportation and meals to the refugees, while they were able to play soccer on the Sun Devil Fitness Complex field and be exposed to college campus life.

"For this semester, our goal is to encourage ASU students to become more involved in humanitarian issues worldwide," she said.

This Sunday, USS United is hosting “the vigil” which is held to commemorate and honor all the losses around the world. There will be a humanity poet who will speak at the event.

Rayes said she hopes the club will grow within the upcoming semesters and continue its work.

"In the future, we anticipate more dedicated members who can carry on the club and expand all over Arizona,” Rayes said.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @brittanydierken

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