By Ajiya Doka
To celebrate United Nations Day, which falls on October 24 every year, the Seton Hall University chapter of the United Nations Association-USA (UNA-SHU) helped students contribute to the work of the United Nations with the United in Solidarity Refugee Dinner. Held on October 26, the dinner raised funds for agencies that provide aid to refugees. The UNA-USA chapter invited representatives of the United Nations Foundation, Jewish Vocational Services, and Global Emergency Response and Assistance, all of which work to resettle refugees in the New Jersey area.
Renata Koch Alvarenga, the chapter’s undersecretary of programming, said the motivation for the event was to discover “how we can all help in the refugee crisis” and the role that New Jersey can play in alleviating refugees’ struggles. Specifically, the chapter focused on education, the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, through the Adopt-a-Future campaign, which provides school supplies to refugee children.
According to the Adopt-a-Future website, “more than 65 million people have fled their homes and risked their lives in search of refuge. Most are children, but less than half have access to education.” Because of this, their mission is to “to prevent a lost generation by giving refugee children the education they need to build a better future.”
UNA-SHU was able to raise $470, which was then divided among the three NGOs. Daniel Garay, the chapter’s undersecretary of finance, said, “This event was a first for UNA-SHU. It was important to the agencies receiving the donations as well as us to as an organization. The success of the event shows us we can do this again and more frequently to do the best in our area, but at the same time, making a global impact.”
As the UNA-USA chapter on Seton Hall’s campus continues to grow and advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, the club has shifted its focus from education about the SDGs to implementation. In comparison to last year’s United Nations Day celebration with Dr. Martin Edwards’s SDG Teach-In event, this year’s event was focused on UNA-SHU coming together as a chapter to do something tangible for refugees in New Jersey.
It is important to connect people to see that this issues of the refugee crisis are not something that is “over there” but affecting people right here in the United States. As UNA-SHU has proven, there are things that students can do at a local level that can truly help a local refugee family, connecting them to the refugee crisis instead of seeing it as a faraway problem.
“This proves that no matter how small, any contribution that you can make will go a long way, and I feel like this is a message youth needs to hear. This applies to not just the Sustainable Development Goals, but the refugee crisis: We live in a time where being well-informed is a necessity, where we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what we can do to help others. We must question, every single day, how to improve ourselves as human beings in the context of making life better for those who deserve a second chance,” said Gabriela Taveras, the president of UNA-SHU.
To learn more or to join Seton Hall University’s chapter of UNA-USA, visit their website: http://www.unausa.org/programs/seton-hall-alliance/free-una-usa-membership