In collaboration with Syrian refugees from around the Valley, the Refugee Alliance held a bake sale on Hayden Lawn on Wednesday, offering passersby Syrian pastries in an attempt to introduce customers to their culture.
Molly Ott, an assistant professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and Tracy Nishida, a professor in the the psychology department, were two of the event coordinators and said events like these are a step forward for both the refugees and U.S. born residents.
“We’re trying to do several things,” Nishida said. “There are over 200 families in Phoenix who are recent refugees in Syria and they all want to establish lives here and make a place for themselves and contribute to the community. It’s great for people in the community to see who these people are.”
Ott added that with a high amount of refugee families in Phoenix, having an event like a bake sale offers attendants an easy way to meet refugees as well as for refugees to meet the rest of the community.
"Maybe you’ve never met a refugee before,” Ott said. “This is an opportunity for people to meet them and talk to them. It’s a really great experience for them to meet Americans. They’re all interested in meeting friends here. They’ve left their previous lives behind and they’re starting here.”
ASU’s chapter of the Refugee Alliance also helped set up the event. Co-presidents Zouheir Ridouani and Haya Sweidan said the bake sale.
“We got in contact with the ASU faculty who work with the sweet exchange program, and we really liked what they had to say,” Sweidan said. “Just for our organization to be a part of something this helpful is a privilege.”
Like Ott and Nishida, Sweidan said they wanted the bake sale to let people meet the refugees in their community.
“We want people to come by and get to meet these people and get to know them,” she said. “You read a lot about them in the news. We want them not to be just labeled as refugees. They’re humans, they’re moms and they’re just women here wanting to make a better living. Having them spend their hard work and money to make these goods is kind of just the American dream of working hard and making it.”
Aside from the volunteers and club members, Syrian refugees were at the tables selling baked goods.
Fatemeh Shqeer, moved to the Arizona 11 months ago. She left Syria three years ago to escape the war and came to the U.S. from Jordan.
Shqeer said she thinks the event is important to allowing people to see more about refugees than they would from the media.
“We’re a group of Syrian ladies and we bake Syrian sweets,” she said.
“This lets (customers) know of other types of sweets and a part of another culture. It’s very important because we become a part of this city and this community. It’s (very) important to know each other. We can taste your food and you can taste ours.”