Eighth grade working with Syrian charities

Joe Lister

The Eighth Grade will partner with multiple organizations to help a Syrian refugee community in Greece.


Nea Kavala is one of the numerous refugee camps hosting Syrian refugees fleeing from their war-torn home country. However, this one is special to Malvern, as the eighth grade class has planned an event to help those who are struggling in the camp.  

Some special guests worked with eighth grade dean Mr. Robert Buscaglia to plan this event. Kayra Martinez is the founder of Love Without Borders, a charity for a refugee camp in Greece. Amanda Levenson is the co-founder of NeedsList, a website and app to connect volunteers in refugee camps to donors.

Eighth grade dean Mr. Rob Buscaglia said that the idea for a Syrian refugee project first happened when his son’s elementary school talked to a group of refugee children which was set up by Levenson.

“After I heard about that experience I got in contact with Amanda,” he said. “We started talking and thought it would be really cool if we could do something like what they did.”

The Eighth Grade will be working indirectly with a refugee camp in Nea Kavala, a town in northern Greece.

“What our approach will be you can’t help anyone one until you know their situation,” Buscaglia said.

The grade will be educated on the refugee crisis before helping. “We can create awareness, by creating an awareness campaign, as an Eighth Grade I think that’s an incredible thing to do,” he said.

Eighth grader Tommy Simpson is excited about the upcoming project.

“The thing that’s so interesting about this project is that it’s not about school,” he said. “It’s more about affecting people’s’ lives,” he said. “These people have gone through things that we can’t even imagine.”

Eighth grade parent Metty Vithayathil works with refugees as an attorney, and is on the committee for the refugee project.

“I had been working with refugees every since I graduated from law school,” she said. “I’ve never worked directly with any Syrian refugees. I was seeing more individuals from Latin America and African countries,” Vithayathil said.

But even if they’re not all from the same places, Vithayathil said that all refugees have at least a few things in common. “Their stories are always compelling,” she said. “Another is that most refugees lead normal lives until their countries become divided.”

Martinez first worked as a flight attendant, bringing food and supplies to refugees in Greece, and had little knowledge of the situation.

“I didn’t know so much about who [the refugees] we’re, or what they needed,” Martinez said. “I offered my help…as I became more involved I saw there were other needs.”

She eventually worked with the Red Cross, and after that she took the next step, and created her own company.

Martinez created Love Without Borders, an organization for people in the camp Nea Kavala, in Northern Greece. She chose Greece because she believed that it is the country with the greatest needs.

Soon after creating Love Without Borders, Martinez made Art Without Borders, which gave the refugees in Nea Kavala art supplies. The jewelry, paintings, and hats they made are sold, and proceeds are all given to the camp.

There are 780 refugees in Nea Kavala and people don’t really know what they need, according to Amanda Levenson.  

“We have this assumption that we know exactly what’s needed,” she said.

In fact, Levenson says that around two thirds of donated items sent to refugee camps are thrown away. People send things that can’t be used, like tennis rackets, or things that they already have, like blankets.

“It’s really mass chaos,” she said.

What Levenson’s app does is let volunteers post needs, and people can donate money so that the volunteers can buy the items needed. “If people want to give donations, we connect them to people on the ground.”

Items on the Nea Kavala page range from haircuts, to showers, to suitcases. “It’s like Wikipedia for the refugee crisis,” she says. “Organizations are creating those lists… and people are meeting those needs.”

“As eighth graders it’s a unique opportunity,” Vithayathil said. “I’m excited to learn with [them].”