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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • A struggle for freedom, rights: USM to spotlight grad's humanitarian work

  • They're not merely nameless faces, not to Alma Habib.
    The Syrian refugees she has volunteered to help in Lebanon share common traits: They've fled their homes, have little to nothing left, and need humanitarian aid.
    There was the woman crying because she'd lost everything and couldn't pay for her son's seizure medication.
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    • If you go …


      What: Presentation/photo exhibit by Alma Habib on service trips to Lebanon


      When: 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Tuesday


      Where: Red Room of the University ...

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      If you go …



      What: Presentation/photo exhibit by Alma Habib on service trips to Lebanon



      When: 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Tuesday



      Where: Red Room of the University of Saint Mary's Berchmans Hall on USM campus, 4100 S. Fourth St.



      — The event, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by the USM Lawrence D. Starr Global Studies Institute.

  • They're not merely nameless faces, not to Alma Habib.
    The Syrian refugees she has volunteered to help in Lebanon share common traits: They've fled their homes, have little to nothing left, and need humanitarian aid.
    There was the woman crying because she'd lost everything and couldn't pay for her son's seizure medication.
    There was the boy, maybe 10 years old, caring for his infant brother because they'd lost their parents.
    There were students going to school in a once-abandoned building who lacked basic clothing, and children who treasure chalk as a gift better than toys.
    Habib, 23, a Leavenworth resident and 2013 University of Saint Mary graduate, has spent the last few years traveling to Lebanon during school breaks to help Syrians at a refugee camp in Arsal, a town near the Eastern Lebanon Mountain Range. She's also done medical and clinical work in Tripoli.
    "I feel like it's my duty," she said. "All I want to see is the Syrian people happy again, back to a better life, and actually getting what they want and what they're continuing to fight for — their freedom and basic rights."
    Habib's parents, Fariz and Arwa, immigrated to the U.S. from Syria about 30 years ago. 
    But, Habib said it's not only family and native ties that inspire her to help the refugees.
    "It's not just personal because my parents are Syrian," she said. "It's also because, as I've gotten older, I've realized we all have a humanitarian duty to take care of others. If you see something wrong, we need to help fix it. … Any kind of help really makes a difference."
    Habib, who is currently taking pre-med courses at USM, is scheduled to make a short presentation next week at the school about her overseas volunteer work. 
    A photo exhibition will follow.
    The event is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Red Room inside Berchmans Hall.
    "Habib's talk will explore her own ties to Syria, the motivation that pushed her toward humanitarian relief work at the refugee camps, and the challenging conditions faced by refugees," USM stated in a news release. "She will also offer ways to donate goods for the Syrian children in the refugee camps."
    The school's Lawrence D. Starr Global Studies Institute is the presentation and exhibit host. The event is free and open to the public."We hope to make this a wonderful celebration of the service and accomplishments of an outstanding student who is giving back to the world," Global Studies Institute Director Karenbeth Zacharias said.
    Habib said she will talk about the refugee situation in Lebanon, provide historical perspective, and offer insights into challenges refugees face, psychological factors, and medical and weather conditions.
    Page 2 of 2 - She said an experience from a recent visit this winter stood out. A family invited her into their tent for tea, a seemingly simple gesture.
    "You don't realize how little they have until you actually see them," Habib said. "All they have is basically just a tent, and I've seen five or six people living in one tent.
    "They have nothing, but they invited me in for a cup of tea. I went in and just sat down. … I didn't hear them complain once about anything. They just kept saying, 'Thank God, thank God.' It makes me realize how fortunate we are (in the U.S.) and we don't even realize it."
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