Student led organization helps international and local orphans
By Zahraa Farhat | Thursday, 01.05.2017, 09:50 PM

SOR is raising for Lebanese orphans.

DEARBORN — As more local and global children find themselves orphaned and deprived of basic needs, a group launched by philanthropic college students finds ways to assist. 

Students for Orphan Relief (SOR), a humanitarian organization at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, began its journey helping children this past fall as a campus chapter of its mother organization, Aid for Orphans Relief. The non-profit organization provides orphans and other children  at risk with proper healthcare, nutrition and medical treatments. 

President Diana Ollaik, 20, first found out about Orphans Relief and its daughter chapters at Wayne State and Oakland Universities, where students had formed their own clubs. She immediately knew she had to establish one at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

"I've always had a passion for helping those in need," she said. "This club allows me to do that; and far more, I can take my skills and use them in ways to help those who need it. I love knowing that we're making a difference in someone's life, no matter how small. It makes all our hard work worth it."

According to Vice President Dana Mohammad, 21, SOR implemented the same mission as its mother foundation by also providing orphans with medical supplies and healthcare. 

Currently, SOR is focused on its international project with Dearborn's Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization in assisting an orphanage in Lebanon that shelters children with varied disabilities. Mohammad said the group may even visit the orphanage soon.

"We are working to establish a mission trip for summer 2017," she said. "So that our members can visit the orphans we help and provide them with a hands-on-approach to philanthropy."

Mohammad said she had the chance to contact some of the orphans at the Lebanese shelter and that they only radiated gratitude and happiness.

"Even though these children are orphans living with disabilities, they are humble and grateful and content," she said. "They do need healthcare, but they really just need to know that people care. SOR UM-D is able to do both and it's just amazing."

SOR also teamed up with Wayne County Family Center in Westland, a temporary shelter for displaced families, by "adopting a room." The students will ultimately be in charge of maintaining the family room. 

Mohammad said members will paint it, revamp it and provide each family occupying the room with necessities. She added that it's the group's way of giving back to the community.

When it first started, SOR had only three members, including Ollaik and Mohammad, but now the group has more than 20 members, with a full board. And, it continues to grow philanthropically as more students join.

"My most favorite thing about SOR is our flexibility, adaptability and creative process to aspire and develop new ideas and pursuits," Treasurer Jonathan Gavia, 24, said.

Even though SOR is a student-led organization, community members can get involved through the many events the group holds at different businesses to raise money for its cause. 

"This January, for example, we are having Food Frenzy Fridays, in which local businesses around Dearborn are generously donating a percentage of their proceeds to our campaign every Friday of the month," Mohammad said. "We also hold bake sales for students on campus, bowling nights, karaoke, ice skating, etc."

People who have no time to attend events, but want to donate, can contribute to SOR's online fundraiser:  https://givebutter.com/fy9c43. Others interested in volunteering can email sorumdearborn@gmail.com. 

Around 10 teams, including student organizations, are helping SOR raise money in support of its campaign, which comprises funding healthcare and medical supplies, providing access to nutritious meals, funding necessary surgeries and procedures, building a network of humanitarian community and international leaders, working with other student organizations and traveling abroad with a health team to manage vaccinations and routine check-ups for orphans.

"By contributing to the lives of the children who are the most vulnerable and who really do need us, it makes all the difference in the world," Secretary Zouhru Saab, a 20-year-old political science major, said.

Mohammad is a pre-law student, studying women's and gender studies and behavioral science. Ollaik is a pre-medical student, studying biology and psychology. Gavia is a pre-medical student, studying microbiology and philosophy. 


By Zahraa Farhat

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