Campus Leaders Engaged the La Sierra community in a Year-Long Endeavor to Help Syrian Refugees

As SALSU’s Religious VP, Caitlin Cuenca wanted to generate campus involvement in a worthy cause:  helping Syrians forced to flee their country in the face of civil war. Working with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Caitlin decided to focus on Syrian refugees in Jordan, where 600,000 displaced people now live.

Working with Andrew Pedersen, student missions director, Caitlin launched Project Syria with a coat drive. They then traveled to Jordan to distribute winter coats—and discovered that countless families had fled the country’s overcrowded and dangerous refugee camps for squalid urban apartments.

— Caitlin Cuenca, Bio-Health Science/ Pre-Dentistry major, Clovis, CA

— Andrew Pedersen, Religious Studies/Pre-Nursing major, Laurel, Maryland

1. A Critical Cause

In Amman and Mafraq, we talked to families about how they were desperately trying to stretch $35 per month, which they received from the United Nations, to cover rent, food, and medical care. We came back to campus with the goal of raising $15,000 to help these families survive in their temporary homes.

  1. Caitlin and Andrew talked to four families in Mafraq, while their children made drawings.
  2. This boy asked Andrew to take a picture of him and his toy. Andrew is playing back the photo shoot.
  3. Boy on the streets in Mafraq.
  4. A child’s drawing of falling bombs.


2. Raising Funds and Goods: Coat drive + concert + fashion show

Coat drive.
In November, Caitlin and Andrew set boxes around campus— and collected 50 coats, which they rolled up tightly and flew with them to Jordan.

In February, they raised more than $2,000 from students who heard great music and bought Project Syria tee-shirts and food!

REVO fashion show.
Thanks to eight original clothing lines designed and modeled by students, this big April event raised more than $7,000 to help Project Syria!

  1. 120 students grooved to folk and indie music by a Christian band, The Brilliance.
  2. Andrew and Caitlin explain the impact of Project Syria to the REVO audience.
  3. One of the many beautiful student-created and student-modeled gowns featured at REVO (click picture #3 to see a pictures from the show!).

3. Visiting the Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Honestly, most people were unsure about the future. They found it extremely difficult to survive on a tiny amount of money. Some talked about returning to the camp or even to Syria itself if they couldn’t get help; there was nowhere else to go.

  1.   Family wearing coats from campus coat drive. 
  2.   Caitlin and Andrew at one of the highest points in Amman.