Over 800 USC students volunteered with Meals 4 Refugees at the Caruso Catholic Center this weekend where they helped pack, sort and organize donations for Syrian refugees. According to the official Facebook event, the organization estimated that they would be able to put together 120,000 meals and 40,000 seed packs. The event was jointly held by Cru and the Global Aid Network.
Participating student organizations included the USC Ballroom Team, Global Brigades, USC Colleges Against Cancer, Camp Kesem and several Greek organizations.
GAiN provides children and their families with life-saving food packs. For a sustainable food source, GAiN provides a variety of vegetable seed packs to agricultural communities. GAiN works with communities to develop bucket drip-irrigation kits for community and family gardens.
Steve Baker, who worksfor GAiN, was one of the organizers for the event. Baker travels with GAIN, packaging seeds, feminine products and clothes to send to refugees. Baker said he was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers that came out and encouraged students to continue participating in community service, which was planned months in advance.
“People see things on the news all the time and ask the obvious question, ‘What am I supposed to do other than have a strong opinion?’” Baker said. “Here, people feel like, ‘Wow, I’ve done something good,’ and that they have done it with a wide community of folks that [they] might not see eye-to-eye [with] politically, but [can] rally around the fact that there are people in a desperate situation.”
Eliana Velasco, a senior majoring in journalism, volunteered with her sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma and said that helping out at Meals 4 Refugees inspired her to continue working to help refugees.
“This is actually one of the first times that I’ve volunteered at an event like this,” Velasco said. “It’s not enough to share a post on Facebook or tweet a photo and say, ‘This is what’s happening to refugees.’ To actually do the work and help put this food together for people is something really special and it makes me want to do more.”
Milanny Vazquez, a junior majoring in communication management and narrative studies, was also among the volunteers that arrived early Saturday morning.
“The event was well organized with a clear purpose that shows results,” Vazquez said. “Although my hands began to cramp from repetitive motion, the labor work was well worth the cause, which is to send meals to displaced refugees.”
Nathalye Lopez, a junior majoring in contemporary Latino and Latin American studies and Human Biology, helped package rice and lentils, and found it extremely humbling that such an overwhelming number of people were volunteering.
“I know we are all busy college students but it felt really nice to volunteer,” Lopez said. “It was a great experience and heartwarming knowing that we fed so many people in a span of two hours. Events like these really open your eyes to what it takes to help people in need.”