HAS Students Making an Impact Around the World
Over the summer and into the fall, American High School students have been focusing their efforts on worldwide change. With the large-scale humanitarian crisis in Yemen being a big news story over the month of August, many unfortunate issues all over the world came into the light all over U.S. media. Since then, many students at American have taken it upon themselves to help out places outside of the U.S., some focusing their efforts on their home countries, and others on tragic crises such as the one in Yemen. Three American High School students have decided to launch campaigns to raise awareness and provide aid to the people suffering ongoing, devastating issues in Yemen, Armenia, and Afghanistan.
The Yemen Crisis rightfully picked up a lot of traction as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world” according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, also known as UNICEF. Many civilians were caught in the crossfire of a long, violent civil war leading millions to suffer from airstrikes, starvation, and disease. To combat this, many foundations all over the world have been donating their supplies and resources. American High School’s local Interact Club was one of these sources of help, they managed to raise almost $500 in donations to help UNICEF in their mission to save Yemen.
Interact Club President Ashley Lee (12) has been a part of Interact since she entered high school, making this year her fourth year in the organization. She was initially drawn to Interact as one of the largest clubs in our school that helped on both a local and worldwide level.
“Interact is generally a club that wants to do good in the world. We want to fundraise for good causes. For example, our annual community and international projects are both projects where we raise a lot of money in the district to give back to causes that will help those around the world. The Yemen Crisis gained a lot of social media momentum and [me and vice president Apoorva Sannasi (12)] didn’t see why not to” Ashley Lee (12).
To fundraise, the club used bingo boards which donors could fill out with small amounts of money ranging between $1-$5. The club does not stop there, however, as their district project this year titled “Feeding the Future” focuses on raising money to help send sustainable food to starving Yemeni people in their time of crisis. More information can be found in their District Project Video.
Other issues have taken a more personal toll on students. Many of our AHS friends have families back at home who are stuck in the middle of these devastating crises. Polina Muradyan (12) is one such student who decided to take it upon herself to organize a bake sale to help citizens in an ongoing crisis in her home country of Armenia. Similar to the Yemen crisis, people’s lives have been jeopardized in a civil war dating back centuries between the Turkey-supported Azerbaijan and Armenia-supported Republic of Artsakh. Muradyan has decided to focus her efforts on helping the people affected.
“A lot of bad stuff has been happening to the civilians. I’m not placing blame on one side at all . . . I want to put more focus on the actual civilians rather than specifically Armenians. I think human lives are more important than national identity” Polina Muradyan (12).
Muradyan decided to donate her profits from the bake sale to the Red Cross who is working in conjunction with the Azerbaijan Red Crescent to help send aid to affected civilians. She plans on holding another bake sale near the beginning of November to aid the citizens in their plight during the ongoing civil war.
To the east of Armenia, Afghanistan has been suffering through their own troubling situation especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, since countries such as Afghanistan did not have the resources to support much of its people during the spread of the disease. Far from home, Palwasha Alokozai (11) has embarked on three GoFundMe campaigns over the summer to bring supplies and resources to people suffering in Afghanistan. Her first campaign focused on Afghan COVID relief. After gaining social media traction, the campaign was partnered with the Afghan Women and Children Health and Education Foundation.
“We sent COVID packages that included food, health necessities, and a package to maintain each family for around a month” says Palwasha Alokozai (11).
Around June and July, Alokozai created another GoFundMe for the Muslim-observed holiday, Ramadan. It focuses on a sense of community through fasting and prayer. Many Muslims in Afghanistan did not have food or water that would allow them to live through the fasting portion of Ramadan. Alokozai created the fundraiser to send food and water to families who were suffering from starvation so they would be able to observe the important religious holiday. Her current fundraiser is asking for donations to help build a girls’ school in Afghanistan.
Young children living in Afghan villages, like the one Alokozai’s father grew up in, “don’t have classrooms like we do. They barely have a room, they’re outside near bricks studying . . . With the campaign, we want to spread access to education.” The GoFundMe for the girls’ school fund has raised over $1.3k as of October 19, and the link to donate can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/building-school-in-afghan-village.
All three students advocating for countries outside of the United States had one common trait between them—the desire to educate others on issues students might not know about. Lee’s words of advice are on charities:
“I feel like there’s so many charities out there all dedicated to so many different purposes so if there’s anything you want to help out with, make sure you do your research.”
Research was a large part of all three’s campaigns for change. Many activists aside from AHS students advocate for people to educate themselves above anything else. In regards to where people get their information, Muradyan wants people to know that people should
“Scrutinize what you think is right. Reflect on what you have been taught, check your sources and who is writing the things you are reading, and try to be the best person you can be.”
The largest source of help, and what students can do at home, is to simply learn and be aware of issues around the world, make sure the information they are getting are from reputable sources, and see what they can do in their community. And lastly, from Alokozai,
“Nobody is really aware of those problems going around. I think it’s important to be aware of those problems internationally. We’re just trying to help the world a little.”