Sociology Club raises money for refugee housing program in Greece founded by MSU alum

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courtesy of Finding Refuge

Finding Refuge is a philanthropical organization co-founded by MSU alum Lena Azzouz.

Starting in Fall 2020, Sociology Club at MSU Texas began raising money for the Duniya Housing Center, a refugee housing center in Athens, Greece created by Finding Refuge, which was co-founded by MSU alum Lena Azzouz.

“Lena Azzouz started Duniya House.  The inspiration came from a visit she made to Greece when she saw mothers with children (refugees) sleeping on boxes.  As a kind and compassionate person, she knew she needed to do something to alleviate the suffering, so she first began raising money through a Gofundme to help pay for apartments for them,” Dr. Beverly Stiles, sociology chair, professor and Sociology Club advisor, said.

The Duniya Housing Center gives asylum seekers and refugees in Greece to escape the poor living conditions most refugees are subjugated to. Those who apply must have a specific goal they are working towards to be accepted. The center can hold a max of 60 people, and it currently holds 37 people, including 19 children (of which, one was born in the facility) from five different countries. The center provides housing and also offers various kinds of assistance to the residents, including free, optional English lessons and an asylum support team.

Fundraising for this project is important to April Kaufman, sociology senior and president of the sociology club, because it extends the sociology’s club charity internationally and provides a way to collaborate with an MSU alum.

“I think [Azzouz being an alum] makes it even more special. Going forward, I think it’s going to be something that Sociology Club will collaborate with for years to come,” Kaufman said. “That’s the thing about the Sociology Club that it’s not just the MSU community or local community, this is a global community, and we’re all living in this global community together.”

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Lena Azzouz, psychology junior, stands with her poster at the rally against the immigration executive order, on Feb. 1st. (Bridget Reilly)

As a student at MSU, Azzouz was involved with the Sociology Club and advocated for human rights on campus. Among the events she attended was a 2017 rally on campus against former President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from a number of Muslim-majority countries.

“Lena was an excellent student academically, very aware of what is happening in the world, not just in the U.S.  She was a very compassionate and kind individual.  She was always responsible and mature,” Stiles said.

Azzouz thanked the Sociology Club for their donation in a personal letter.

“We are truly grateful to have you as an essential supporter of our mission and humanitarian work! Your faith in small grassroots organizations such as ours drives us to work diligently to achieve our mission to support vulnerable and neglected refugees. With your support we can reach new heights of serving and solidarity with refugees,” Azzouz wrote.

The Sociology Club sold handmade Christmas ornaments in the Clark Student Center in the fall semester and raised $200, which has already been donated to Duniya House. They also sold bundles of chocolates and candies around Valentine’s Day to raise more money, which earned about another $170. Stiles says along with other funds, the total amount raised so far comes out to approximately $400.

“Last semester, we made ornaments. We created ornaments and we sold them in the Clark Student Center. We did really well,” Kaufman said. “This semester our goal was $500, and so far we’ve raised almost $200. We had another fundraiser in February, so we’ll have another one probably in April.”

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The sociology team raised funds in February by selling bundles of Valentine’s candy. (Courtesy of April Kaufman)

Kaufman said she believes the Sociology Club helping the Duniya Hosue in Athens shows students how they can impact the real world. She also believes collaborating like this in university helps students maintain their relationships and connections once they graduate.

“I think its important to show that there’s a need for us to come together and to work together as a community not just locally but globally, and I think it’s important to build those relationships with your fellow students, so that way moving forward in future endeavors, you have those resources to reflect back upon and to come together with not the real world if you meet people. These relationships you build in college, hopefully, you still have those outside these walls and you can have strength reaching back for those working together and moving forward to the real world,” Kaufman said.

Students who wish to donate or join the Sociology Club can contact Kaufman at [email protected] or Stiles at [email protected] If students wish to donate directly to help the Duniya House they can do so at https://www.findingrefugegr.com/donate.