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International Studies program collects for Tampa refugees

The giving spirit emphasized during the holiday season is over. So is the one-day celebration of love. However, this does not hinder the International Studies program from continuing to give to those in need.

Under the direction of program assistant Joan Newcomb, International Studies set aside two weeks — Feb. 6 to last Friday — for students to donate school, household and hygiene items that will aid the Tampa area refugee population.

Nearly 30 boxes and bags with items ranging from backpacks to zip-lock bags were donated as of Friday.

Even though International Studies has participated in other supply drives, Newcomb said this is the first time such a collection will be given to refugees.

According to Newcomb, Tampa is one of the largest resettlement areas for refugees coming from other countries, and thus it makes sense for a university’s international program to sponsor an event such as this.

Inspired by a quote from author Anne Frank, Newcomb said: “You don’t have to wait until you’re secretary of state before you make a difference in the world. You can make a difference today.”

Newcomb said more than 40 students volunteered to announce the refugee drive to 75 USF international studies classes.

On the final day, six student volunteers sorted the donated items that will go to the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services and the Lutheran Services of Florida, both in Tampa.

Newcomb said all donations will be equally divided between the two organizations because the non-profit groups deal directly with the refugee families.

“They know which family needs what,” she said. “If a family has children, they’d give school supplies. If an elderly couple (is in need), maybe personal hygiene products would be given.”

Sophomore Natasha Bui said she’s inspired to donate because she remembers her mother’s stories about being a refugee in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

“I didn’t experience it firsthand, but my mom did when she was 14 years old,” Bui said. “So, when I heard about the drive, I told Newcomb that I would be interested in helping.”Junior Rachael Emery said rather than being interested in helping someone, it’s a task she takes seriously.

“It may not have so much to do with interest, it just needed to be done,” she said.

Though the International Studies program held a two-week supply drive, interested donors can continue donating to Tampa’s refugees at any time.

For more information, contact Newcomb at 974-0790.